Young farmers’ problems seem to be pretty much the same in every part of the world: market, land, financing, information about production techniques and their contributions to agriculture exactly the same: making food producing sustainable, natural environmental safer and agriculture modern and easy.
In Serbia, many young farmers start their own agricultural production without any help from government, associations or others. Despite their production being aiming economic sustainability, there are many obstacles for young farmers to grow. Just as only 6% of all farm holdings in Europe are run by farmers under 35, in Serbia less than 5% of farmers are under the age of 40. Serbian young people are running away from villages and agriculture thinking it is hard to start, it’s hard work, towns are not close, there is no social life, it is hard to get promotion and space in the market. This is unfortunate because young people bring new technologies in agriculture by making quality products with less work, products that are safe and healthy with the ecological conscience for the environment.
Being a young farmer in Serbia is very challenging but these few Serbian young farmers found their match with agriculture and made production better.
Goran Stevanovic is 38 years old and lives in a village Saranovo in Central Serbia together with his wife an d three kids. Goran has around 30 ha of land where he grows corn, clover, wheat and cherry and plum trees. He says that young people run away from villages and farms because they don’t like hard work. “I was investing in my producing and worked very hard, now everything paid off and I’m happy. While I work in the field I sing”, says Goran. He practices diversified agricultural production, his family does not buy food because they are producing it and now with biomass boom, production is more environmentally friendly.
Milovan Sreckov from a village Zmajevo in the North of Serbia village is 22 years old farmer with 120 ha of land. When I asked him, since he works all day in the field, if he has any time for social life, he said: “Of course!”. In his words, city life nowadays is very expensive, and he isn’t interested in bars and nightlife, because he just became a father. Just like Goran, in agriculture and village life they found their dream, made a family and workplace. How do they make it? Many of these kind farmers started within inherited fathers’ farms with their own investment and hard work. It took time to make small farm big, but they made it.
On the other side, Milos Milovanovic (Kopljari, Central Serbia) has 25 cows. With milk income, he invested in a modern open stable for cows so they are not sensitive to illness, bought cowhide machine and device for calving cows. Why last? Because, that is one more problem in agriculture, especially in Serbia – farmers don’t have anyone nearby to help when it’s urgent, because villages are becoming empty and with that device, he can calve alone. He plans to innovate his production more: buying more cows and other machines to get a higher quality of milk. He modernizes his production with knowledge, right investments and hard work, so now he can work less and earn more.
Another interesting story is about of Djordje Maricevic (Orasac, Central Serbia) who planted raspberry. In last five years raspberry became a kind of a modern cash crop and everybody, not just common farmers, start to plant it. This resulted in the price becoming low with a lot of products in the market, and even lower since Serbia this year suffered from frost and drought, which affected the quality. With right treatment and irrigation system, Djordje saved the majority of his plants. Now he will get cold storage so he can keep and save raspberry when the price is right. New but common technologies in agriculture made production less uncertain and this young farmer just uses it.
The price, market, and value chain are some of the main challenges of young farmers. Fact is that market space for young farmers gives them certain future and possibility to grow and sustain their production. With the label “young farmers product” in Serbia association of young farmers (SUMP) they believe that market problem would be mostly solved because the label would guarantee decent price and place on the market for young agrarians. This label is yet to be approved by the government in Serbia.
Goran, Milovan, Milos and Djordje, with their investments, innovations and growing quality of their products don’t have any problems with price or marketplace and could be exemplary leaders for other young farmers, or young people wishing to start farming.
Of course, there are many challenges that make agricultural production difficult for young farmers but these stories from Serbia show that educated and informed young people brought to agriculture better resource utilization, technological use and bigger production of healthy food. Young people can bring much more, so agriculture can be a real source of life.
Picture credit: Julijana Kuzmic