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City style will not hinder country’s rural efficiency

Young family dare to open first organic farm shop in Belarus
By Leonid Svetlovsky

It took several months for me to arrange a meeting with Nadya and Sergey, from Minsk, since the arrival of their first baby occupied most of their spare time. Moreover, they recently launched their pioneering business, opening an online organic farm shop — the first in Belarus. They have no idea whether their risk will pay off; even now, they’re unsure how successful their venture will prove to be.

The young couple visit farmers to inspect growing conditions and admit that most treat them sceptically at their first meeting. They’ve clearly never grown vegetables themselves but they have firm ideas about quality. Village farmers have no chance of passing off inferior produce, as the pair have studied their sphere well, gaining specialist advice. 

Their database already includes a dozen farmer suppliers. Among them is a pig breeder whose animals roam freely in the forest, eating white truffles. Another also keeps his animals in the open air, even feeding them whey. Sergey smiles, “I guarantee, you can’t look at another meat after tasting that pork.” One of their suppliers is a female hard-cheese maker: very unusual for Belarus. Another is originally from South Africa but arrived in Belarus in the 1990s, taking up his father’s sheep breeding profession after abandoning ideas of evangelicalism.  Interestingly, one supplier is a gestalt-therapist (also a lawyer and a swimming coach); he’s the only Belarusian farmer to boast a European bio-certificate.

Your new project must have taught you a few agricultural tricks. Have you ever thought of farming yourself?

We aren’t excluding this possibility; we’ll certainly try it sometime in the future.

You’re city residents. Aren’t you afraid of failing?

I spent all my holidays until the third year at university at my grandfather’s. He had a large farm where I helped, so village work is nothing new to me; I can mow hay, collect a stack and chop wood.

What about milking a goat?

I’ve never tried but I’ve milked a cow.

The couple lament that eco-friendly products are currently viewed as being elite, being more expensive, but assert, “Our grandparents never ate potatoes filled with nitrates or meat with colouring agents. Natural food was the norm, making those generations healthier. With this in mind, we’d love to see organic food become more widely developed in Belarus. We hear a lot about rural revival so, if people see that selling organic products is profitable, they may move to the countryside to run such businesses,” Nadya and Sergey believe.
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