After a few years in Ireland, Guntis returned to Latvia, bought 7 hectares of land and started growing vegetables, the same as his parents had done before him. The young farmer received no financial assistance from, either Latvia or the European Union. Georgios is a mechanical engineer by profession, but due to the economic crisis in Greece was let go like many other young people. He started working in his father's orchards. The crisis completely stunted any and all financial incentives for young farmers. Salvatore and Nino are two young eco-farmers from Sicily. They say that not many young people do eco-farming. Callum and Christie from Scotland are cattle-breeders of the indigenous Galloway breed. But they find it very difficult to enlarge their herd in the current economic situation. Only 6% of farmers in the EU are younger than 35 and one third is older than 65. Who will still produce food in Europe in 2020?
Aleksanders is a fisherman on the Salaca River in northern Latvia, where a very old method of lampreys. Every year, the villagers build a bridge over the river. From August to February, Aleksanders casts more then 70 nets every morning and evening. He is the third generation of lamprey fishermen in his family. Lampreys resemble eels and are a Latvian culinary speciality. Aleksanders successfully combines traditional fishing with tourism.
When Latvia gained independence in 1991, the State run collective farms or kolhozs disappeared. During Soviet rule, farmers were allowed only small plots of land. Maris' dad regained the land of his father and the family started fruit farming. Three years ago, after completing his study of agronomy and economics, Maris started to sell apples. He's very happy with the fruits of his labour and partly realised the plans which he set for himself a few years ago. He's convinced that farming isn't only a profession. It is a way of life!
Pierre runs an extensive cattle-husbandry programme in the Pyrenees in southern France. They clear forests and the cattle graze upon grass and other Mediterranean plants and shrubs. This method of cattle-husbandry is very important in the area for preventing and limiting the effects of forest fires, which are very frequent during summer droughts.
Ibrand is a landscape architect who realised his father's wish. He bought and old dairy farm and in addition started to produce fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat. He expanded his activities even more and now provides a day care facility for the elderly. More than 1,000 farms in the Netherlands combine food production with social projects.
In southern France, grape-harvesting starts in September. Pascal and Fabien work 20 hectares of vineyards in the Rousillon wine region, renowned for its naturally sweet wines. Production started way back in the 13th century. France is a global wine superpower and competition is rife these days. Pascal is involved in European projects which connect wine with tourism and also the cultural and culinary heritage of southern France.
The Netherlands is, after the USA the second largest exporter of milk and dairy products. Toon and Miriam have a dairy farm in one of the fertile Dutch polders. They are also stock-holders in the biggest dairy cooperative in the EU, Frisland Campina. They milk more than 80 cows every morning and evening. The intensive production of milk brings in an income.
Nevertheless, more and more Dutch farmers look for new alternative solutions in agriculture. Klaas runs a dairy farm in a Nature 2000 region, and decided upon eco-milk production. He has his own dairy and his eco-dairy products are well established at the local market. Spert used to be an intensive Friesland farmer, but now intends to replace his cattle with a less intensive indigenous breed.
In the small Bavarian town of Altusried, the inhabitants built a bridge over the Iller River themselves, raised European funds and added another project to the numerous ideas for countryside development within the region. Everyone helped to build the bridge, even the Mayor and the farmers. The bridge has become a symbol of unifying people and is one of the most successful European projects for countryside development, called Leader. The bridge is one of the landmarks which attract tourists to Altusried, where they can also discover its interesting cultural and culinary tradition. Numerous projects created new jobs – around 30 in the past several years.
After graduating from spatial planning, Djuke decided to stay at their family farm, where her father has grown apples for years.
Dutch agriculture is one of the most intense and highly competitive internationally. Almost all trading is done through the stock-exchange. The majority of Dutch buy their food in supermarkets.
Djuke decided to open a shop at the farm. Together with other farmers, she decided to join "My cow – your cow" project, which enables city dwellers to lease a cow, find out more about agriculture and enjoy quality eco-produced meat.
The story of the Kreuk family business started with a basket of tulips, when Rob's and John's father decided to start producing tulip and daffodil bulbs. Today, the Kreuk produce 35 million bulbs a year which are exported even to the USA and Japan. They have enough work over the entire year. At the end of August, they prepare daffodils and muscari bulbs for sale, and later they prepare the soil for planting tulips. Their bulbs are ready for sale only after three years of growing.
Around 3,000 Dutch companies export some 9 billion flowering plants a year.
Roman and Sonia are eco-farmers from the Austrian village of Markenbrechts, which lies some 80 kilometres from the Temelin nuclear plant.
It was the actual vicinity of the nuclear power plant which encouraged Roman to start looking for different solutions regarding renewable energy – solar energy and biomass – for his farm. They produce sunflower and linseed oil which they use to power their family stock car. They even storage sun energy in special batteries on the farm. Arable crops and eco-meat production are also part of the renewable cycle. More and more farmers from their village are following their example of eco-farming. And now, more young people are returning and reviving their grandparents' farms.
The Galloway region is home to one of the oldest breeds of Scottish cattle. The rolling landscape and mild and humid climate are ideal for agriculture and animal husbandry. Callum and Christie Baird are one of the youngest breeders, while Andrew Waugh comes from a family with a long tradition. Cattle is a very personal affair in this area – everyone has his/her favourite cow and the names of the cows are chosen very carefully.
James Beatie grows barley in the northeast of Scotland. The Spey River area is the breadbasket of the country, where the majority of barley, an important ingredient of whiskey, is produced. Due to the weather conditions in the north Europe, conditions for farming are poorer and rather limited. However, barley is a good source of income for farmers, as it is indispensable for one of the biggest UK industries.
Georg, Maria and Erich are pioneers of the Ramsau bio-region. Their idea to integrate sports activities, eco-tourism and eco-farming with the unspoilt area a stone's throw away from the Schladming sports and tourist centre, is now actually becoming reality. The Ramsau bio-region was founded in 1999, when Georg (a farmer and a top athlete) united farmers who started catering for various sports events with locally produced food – mainly milk and dairy products. Maria and Erich are engaged in eco-tourism and have enriched the bio-region with a social project. Their house is always full of young people who haven't had much luck in their life. But Maria and Erich have offered them new opportunities.
Cattle are still regularly put out to pasture at the Zaprikraj Mountain above the village of Drežniške Ravne. Farmers come from the valley and stay on the mountain according to the size of their herd. For one cow, they need to look after the cattle for three days, and they have to know how to make cheese, too.
The Zaprikraj Mountain is the place of a unique shepherd community in the EU. Davorin Koren is the head of the European projects in the Triglav National Park. He lives in Drežniške Ravne and often visits Zaprikraj with his three sons.
Lisa moved back from Vienna to her home town of Raabs in 2002, after the floods which caused a huge amount of damage to their family mill on the Thaya River. Lisa's father Peter was one of the first in Austria to start grinding eco-wholemeal. The Dyke's Mill is a globally renowned company, constructing and making container mills which could be used in less developed parts of the world as well. Lisa and her father Peter now manage The Dyke's Mill together and are the ambassadors of eco-cereal growing in Austria.
Peter Studen, Mimi Porta and Romana Rejc are eco-farmers and one of the first in Slovenia who joined the so-called partner farming – and agreement between a farmer and consumer to buy off produce by quantity and price set in advance. Partner farming is a good way to provide quality food for urban dwellers.
Tomas Ligas is a winegrower and an ambassador of eco-grape growing in Greece. He lives in the town of Pella in the Greek province of Macedonia, where his father tilled his land before him. After graduating from oenology in France, he returned with his French wife to Pella and planted his vineyards.
Brigida Jimenez's life has always been intertwined with olive trees. She's a pharmacist by profession and the manager of the Institute of Agricultural Development in Andalusia. Brigida is also one of the most distinguished Spanish olive oil tasters. Her mission is to improve the quality of Andalusian olive oils. No less than 12 of them have a protected designation of origin.
Some time ago, Gregor moved from a valley to his grandfather's farm, where he looks after his cattle and also studies. At the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana, he's finishing his master's thesis on the cika cattle, an indigenous Slovene breed of cattle reared at the Kuhar's farm for ages. But Gregor is not only a student and a farmer. He's also a dedicated fell runner, who puts on his sports shoes when he finishes his farm work and goes running even at night or in winter time.
Dolores is used to working in the fields of her home town of Aznalcazar, near Sevilla from a very early tender age. Together with her sons, she runs one of the biggest family businesses in the region, concentrating mainly on growing and exporting potatoes. However, the queen of potatoes is a successful Mayor who believes in new opportunities for Andalusia, such as eco-produce and renewable sources of energy.
The economic crisis in the country forced a lot of young Greeks to return home and become farmers. His father left Georgios half of the estate with apricot and cherry orchards, while Nikolaos and Sakis started to produce Greek feta cheese after their textile venture failed. But only 7% of farmers in the EU are under 35 years of age.
Farmers from the small town of Krokus in Macedonia, Greece, have been growing saffron, a spice with medicinal value for no less than 300 years. They have established a cooperative and successfully market their produce worldwide. For one kilogramme of precious saffron, an amazing 150,000 flowers are needed. The spice provides an income for more than 800 families.
Sicily is, after Sardinia, the second largest grower of eco-produce in Italy. Salvatore and Nino are young farmers growing eco-vegetables and producing eco-oil. The brothers Vincenzo and Ettore established eco-tourism on their farm, and Dorotea grows indigenous Sicilian varieties of pulses.
Red Sicilian oranges grow in vicinity of Mount Etna and have a protected designation of origin on the European market. One of the orange growers is Gerardo Diana, the Head of the Sicilian Farmers Association.