Waking up having THE project idea in mind! Three short films; each of them portrays a young farmer, giving an authentic and positive picture about their daily life and their visions. During the following days the idea comes back again and again while waiting for the bus or on the way to the work. It gets shaped and formed in mind, but it’s not the moment to share it yet. Why not use the movies to get the discussion about young farmers and their opportunities kicked off? More and more the idea is getting colored and clearly lined out.
That’s how it happened to me last year when my boss forwarded me an email with the words: “I guess you have a project idea to hand in.” The content of the email: A call for a students’ competition named “Engagier Dich!” (Get active!) carried out by the Mercator Foundation Switzerland.
And yes, my boss was right! It was time to get the ‘baby’ concretely written down and to start to discuss it with trustee friends and finally hand it in.
The number of farms in Europe is declining. Food prices fall, the costs of production steadily increase. Many farmers (male and female included) are fighting for the survival of their farms. Family farms and small holder farms often have little chance to compete with the industrial farms. Today only 6 percent of the farms are owned by people under the age of 35 years old.
Young people mostly aren’t attracted by farming, due to a lack of future prospects and a low income. The daily work in the fields and with the animals is hard, there is hardly any or no holidays and the responsibility is high.
But why do young people despite all these difficulties still choose to go into agriculture and take over a farm? Which are the visions they got? What is forcing them? What are the challenges they are confronted with day by day?
The job as a farmer has to offer a lot, despite of all its not very attractive aspects. To work in and with nature and with the people, the independence and the wide variety of services: from repairing machines to care-taking of animals and the cultivation of the fields – these are some of the interesting aspects of the sector.
“YOUng FARMer’s vision” – The project
When handing in the concept, I was not sure about the countries to involve neither did I have a team behind me. But one important factor which I had for sure was my personal vision of the project’s goal. “A YOUng FARMer’s vision” stresses challenges faced by young farmers and gives the necessary inputs to kick off the discussion about the topic.
Not long after handing in the concept note I’ve got the very good news that Mercator Foundation Switzerland was taking over part of the funding. Then everything went pretty fast. A team was formed with André Stucki (Young Professional’s Platform for Agricultural Research and Development (YPARD) member) and Rahel Wyss (C’Rep, YPARD Switzerland), finding myself in a new role as a project manager. The filming, we handed it over to the art label Faessler & Horst, but working in strong collaboration with them. Finally we decided in which countries we wanted to realize the filming. Switzerland with good economic backgrounds, high subsidies for farmers and not being a member of the European Union (EU), Slovakia as a member of the EU and Serbia as a European Country, but not an EU member, both having weak economies and difficult starting positions for young farmers.
We started with the first film shots in Switzerland during March 2013 in order to gain some experience and improve the concept before exporting it in May 2013 to Serbia and Slovakia.
In Switzerland the young farmer family, Christoph and Fabienne Kappeler with their two little kids, manage a leased farm in a mountain area, since January 2012. They mainly produce milk (30 LU’s) and the fodder for their cows on 20 hectares of land. At the moment the milk provides the main income of the family. The farm is managed according to organic guidelines. Watch the video: A YOUng FARMer’s vision, Switzerland, Christoph Kappeler.
In Serbia we experienced great hospitality and got in touch with “Superior” of which we portrayed the main manager. All was organized by Ivana Radic, the C’Rep for YPARD Serbia.
Years ago Nebojsa Dinovic together with his father and his brother started to build up a seed operation in Serbia. Started with nothing, Nebojsa now runs the family business, known as Superior, with 50 employees. The company grows its own fruits and vegetables. They are found at fairs throughout the Balkans, but also in the rest of Europe. Watch the video: A YOUng FARMer’s vision, Serbia, Nebjosa Dinovic, SUPERIOR Seeds.
Through personal contacts we were connected with three students, Marek, Peter and Andrej from the agricultural university of Nitra in Slovakia, which supported us with the filming of the young farmer Peter Francisci and the translations afterwards.
Peter farms in cooperation with his father about 300 hectares of land in Slovakia. They produce grain, as well as pellets for energy, both for export to neighbouring countries. Father and son act both as an individual company, and share the earnings half and half. Decisions concerning the agricultural operation are decided together, the women being involved in these processes. Watch the video: A YOUng FARMer’s Vision, Slovakia, Peter Francisci.
Panel discussions took place in Serbia and Switzerland and were a great success. The discussed questions were/are: What role do young farmers play for the future of agriculture? Is the voice of young farmers taken into account when making political decisions (within each country)? Where and how do young farmers find support? What is done by governments to strengthen the attractiveness of the profession farmer?
These last months we’ve spent a lot of our free time realizing the films, doing additional fundraising, as well as organizing and conducting the panel discussions. But it was worth it! It was a great chance in order to learn how to realize a project from A to Z and to be part of our own projects birth!
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