I have posted in the past about the wonderful legumes I bought and they grow at the Feneos plateau in the northern Peloponnese and how tasty those products were. I was not able to go there and visit the farm at the time so I had promised myself to do that at one point.
So at the beginning of the summer I was able to visit them. The day was not the best as the rain that was threatening to fall on us started falling but when I reached the village of Goura next to the Feneos plateau the sun was out and inviting. I had already talked with Kostas Daris one of the founders of the company who told me that upon arrival at Goura I should order a coffee at the local coffee shop and wait for him. So this is exactly what I did and was enjoying it all till the rain caught up with me and had to move inside.
So I took my nice coffee and some sour cherry preserve that the good lady who runs the shop brought me and went inside. Not many people in the village at the time and after talking with the woman there she told me that most young kids leave for the big cities to study and do not return to their mother land so the village is almost empty these days. At some point Kostas and his wife came in and joined in the conversation after the necessary introductions and we continued talking about the difficulties of farm life and their everyday problems.
After that we left to visit the fields. As they grow the different pulses at different places around the plateau. The soil after the long needed rain smelled really beautifully and inviting. A wonderful early summer day! Already the beans had sprouted and as most of them are climbers they need some type of support in order to grow. In Feneos they use canes for that job. The workers create a frame using the canes and on that frame the beans start growing.
The whole of the plateau used to be a lake in ancient times so the soil is rich in nutrients and the land is quite fertile. Cultivating pulses only does good in the soil as in the roots of most legumes live nitrogen fixing bacteria that take the nitrogen from the air and convert it in a form that is easy to absorb by the plants. In this way the cultivation of the legumes actually makes the soil richer and better as time goes on. Of course you have to feed the plants with other nutrients but legumes are an easy and cheap crop to grow as it does not need much of anything. On the other hand it uses a lot of hand labour to set up the frames and then harvest by hand and sort etc...
During the conversation Kostas told me that many years ago some scientists came from the Agricultural University of Athens and took sample;es from the soil and roots of the legumes they grow so that they could find those bacteria. The girl in charge at the time was working on her PHD. When I asked him about her and whether her name is Io he said yes and asked me how I knew that.. Well that is a very funny story as at that time I was doing my thesis in that university and my research was on those bacteria and whether they produce phyto hormones... Io was in charge of my thesis!
So.. it shows you how small the world is!!!
Manual labor especially in the fields is very very hard monotonous and lonely. Nothing compared to the jobs that we have sitting down in front of our computers. You wake up very early in the morning, tying cakes under the sun all day, you can imagine how your hands will be afterwards.. So in a way it is logical all the young kids not wanting to get a job like that any more...
Spoke about that with Kostas too.. The worst thing of all is the feeling of mistrust from the rest of the farmers in the area.. And he explained to me why.
In the company that they have set up other farmers can join in as long as they follow the same good practices so that they can all gain even better prices for tools and also to be easier to sell their products around and solve the problems a lot more easily. But the other farmers are afraid f all that! And that is the biggest shame.
I must say that I was a bit disconcerted with all those things that I heard.. it seems that there is not much future if people continue on the same path. Anyway.. afterwards Kostas took me to the rest of the fields and saw the production of lentils and lava etc and my spirits lifted a bit.
As it was getting darker I took the road back to Athens.. I passed by the Stimfalia lake.. beautiful place!!!
So, if you have time take a little road trip around that area... it is beautiful and really worth it! Besides I want to be there for the harvesting of the beans... Shall we go together?