A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to join several colleagues for an agricultural press tour in Serbia. The event was organized by Agropress, the Serbian agricultural journalists organization of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists.
Here are a few more impressions from the trip. A special note of thanks to my Finnish colleague Riitta Mustonen for supplying some of the photos here.
Andrija Vozar is an organic farming pioneer near Novi Sad, Serbia. His family started the business 23 years ago when a local professor visited Western Europe and came back with the idea. This farm is about 61 acres and mainly grows lettuce, spinach, broccoli and cabbage. The farm sells mainly in nearby Novi Sad but is making inroads into the Belgrade organic market. Prices are nearly one-third higher than conventionally-produced food.
Zuzanne Filko is hoeing weeds in an organic farm field near Novi Sad, in northern Serbia. She works ten-hour days and makes only $30 a day, despite her role as field manager of several workers here. Organic is still new here; Serbia is a poor country and most citizens already spend over 40% of their take-home pay for food. Average monthly salary is only $500.
Riitta shot this picture while we were at a Serbian colleague’s family home for lunch. Imagine about 50 journalists, crowding around tables in a hilly back yard, with pets and kids and other family members handing out bowls of hot soup and biscuits, while farmers scrambled to move cattle in tree-lined pastures beyond. The food and friendship were terrific.
One of our stops near Valjevo city took us to this Lelic Monastery. This was a good cultural experience for me. Inside this church a wedding was about to take place. This church is the resting place of St. Nikolai Velimirovich, a modern day Saint whose accomplishments toward mankind are too numerous to mention. Riitta shot this as visitors came to pray, with the priest holding a watchful eye over everything.
Serbia is to raspberries what Italy is to grapes. Here Rasa Maric, owner/manager of Malina Nursery, talks about why Serbia is a world leader in raspberry plant exports. One third of planting material is exported – about 70,000 plants per year, mostly to Bosnia, Romania and Montenegro. The fresh fruit is sold only in Serbia. Maric’s production costs, on average, come in around $4,000 per acre while average gross income is $13,000 per acre for the highest quality plants.
Radoslav Petrovic is owner of one of the most beautiful, largest rose gardens in Europe (Petrovic Roses). Just a few miles outside of Belgrade, the eclectic, gregarious rose breeder has a collection of 2,200 different varieties, including almost 200 varieties of English roses. Some of these varieties date back hundreds and hundreds of years.