Nov 052016

Hello, Dear Friends

Today’s article is about a project that my sister and I started just recently to raise funds to modernize our parents farm. We launched the campaign on Indiegogo and now we are trying to reach to as many people as we can to make our campaign more visible and attract more support. And I thought that you might like to give a helping hand and spread the word.

My parents run a small traditional farm in Braila, Romania. They specialize in growing herbs (dill and leaf parsley), root vegetables , green beans, chili peppers and corn. Most of the work is still done manually. They aim to upgrade to a sustainable farm growing organic food over the next years. That’s why they need your help.

Let’s continue with the story.

Their name is Nicu and Vasilica Stan, a 50 something year old couple from Braila, Romania. Their life, so far, has been mostly tough than easy, with more valleys than peaks. This all began in 1995 when we lost our house due to the country’s economical changes. For the next 8 years they’ve tried various ventures (and adventures, including working abroad in Turkey). Until finally they found their passion. Because this is what farming is for them. It’s not just a business. It is freedom, love and caring. In fact, this is so well known about their work, that it got my father the nickname “Nicu Mărar”, as in Nicu “Dill”.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

2003 was an important milestone in their life. It was the year they went into farming on their own, but also the year, they decided to sell our second house (a 1 room flat) for the sake of us, who were both in high school and needed more space. Sadly, we haven’t been able to buy a house ever since. We’ve been renting for 13 years now. They never had a start up budget that could have allowed them to put a solid basis to their business. They still rely on loans for production costs.

Over the years their business grew little by little. They experimented with different vegetables, like tomatoes, pepper, garlic, cucumber, zucchini, eggplant, cabbage, spinach, root vegetables, green beans, chili peppers, corn, but they found that dill and parsley were most successful. They were more resilient to weather changes than other vegetables and herbs and easier to manage. Although their main products are dill and parsley, they still grow other vegetable in rotation, mostly radish, green beans, chili peppers, corn and others.

All their products are sold in bulk to more than 75% of our local markets. They only sell fresh herbs and vegetables, per kilo/ pounds and in bunches. They cut the dill/ parsley and bind them in small bunches which they put in plastic crates. Then they put the crates in cold water for 15-20 minutes to keep them fresh. Then they are stored away from the sun until next morning when they are delivered to their clients. Their work begins at around 5.00 am in the morning until it gets dark, but it’s work that they love and do with joy, though, for the past few years, it has become a bit difficult for them to keep up with this schedule. (They are not getting any younger!). They would like to increase our workforce to reduce their workload.

The harvesting season lasts from April to late November, which means that they are on standby for 5 months due to cold and harsh winters. You may wonder why they do not build greenhouses. They did. Two of them. But they both got blown away by the strong winds and, ironically, it was in summer. The land is open; there is no curtain of trees to offer protection. And winds are especially strong in these parts.

They have about 5 hectares/10 acres of land. They do not own the land; it is rented annually. Also, they are still at the level of traditional farming, where most of the work is done manually. They use hand operating machinery, such as a two-wheel tractor, hand seeding machine, they weed manually. For soil cultivation, such as ploughing/plowing or tilling, they contract specialists from neighbouring farms.

In 2013 they decided to take the first step to becoming sustainable and modernize their farm. They wanted to buy:

solar panels to replace the generator which ran on petrol (very costly and inefficient) and thus produce their own energy;

– a drip irrigation and low pivot pressure system to reduce loss of water and prevent salinization of soil;

– build two extra drilled wells to deal with the shortage of water during droughts in summer, but also to make sure that the groundwater doesn’t dry up (the land is pretty vast for just one well);

– 3 new submersible water pumps adapted to the solar panels;

budget for production costs for the following year;

– a new car to replace their old Ford Transit from 1995.

Ford Transit

Our Parents Old Ford Transit

They applied for a bank loan which was approved. However, in late November 2013, I, Cătălina, suffered a stroke. But a month spent in the hospital and nearly all the loan money spent on doctors barely saved my life. At that time, I lost my sight, my hearing, the sense of smell and partial mobility. I began recovering only after I was taken out of the hospital and brought home. Currently, even though I’m still blind, I’m doing much better and I’m back to crocheting again, though I’m doing easy stitches such as the Granny on the Straight Stitch. In fact, I want to do something with my life. Since the income provided by the state isn’t enough to cover all daily expenses, me and my older sister, Ana, are planning an online little yarn shop. I’ve crocheted dozens of shawls so far, which I intend to sell; but that’s a story for another day.

Now, let’s go on with the story.

Not being able to make those investments back then has taken a great toll on them. They simply couldn’t reduce the debts anymore. They couldn’t make any progress. They dream of a day when they start the agricultural year without any debt. That’s why, my sister and I came up with this idea to make a campaign to raise funds to help them. This is the least we can do to help them.

All of your donations will go into making the original plan from 2013 a reality: a sustainable farm which plans to grow organic food. They need $50,000. Here is what it will be spent:

– solar panels to produce solar energy: $10,000

– drip irrigation system and low pivot pressure: $4,000

– costs for two drilled wells: $2,000

– 3 submersible pumps: $1,000

– budget for production costs (seeds, organic fertilizers, which are very expensive, soil management, etc): $10,000

– a new car ( a car is essential to our business; we deliver the goods to our clients every morning): $10,000

– new machinery to replace older ones, such as our 5 year old two-wheel tractor, our 8 year old hand sowing machine, hand held fertilizing equipment: $5,000

– other unforeseen costs due to climatic hazards, mostly; estimated costs around $3,000

(Last year they went through a series of misfortunes where their well clogged; they couldn’t water the plants and they couldn’t produce anything for a month; later that year the car engine broke and needed to be replaced; because the car is very old, the pieces are also old and faulty and need constant replacement; believe it or not, this summer, there were some pretty strong currents which, unfortunately destroyed their greenhouse).

– there are quite a number of taxes needed to be paid for money transfers, exchange rates, commissions, fees and taxes that sum up to $5,000


The Greenhouse which was destroyed

The land they work every day has given them and us so much, so now they want to give something back to it. They have noticed that over the years that the soil has lost some of its fertility, the droughts seem more intense and the rain is more acid. It is essential that we protect the land and environment and help replenish it and not overuse it if we want to have long term benefits.

We do know that there are chances we won’t raise the entire amount of money that we ask. Even so, we will use all the money that we will receive to implement our plan.

There is always a way you could help, even though you may not be able to donate. Please spread the word around. You can even use our text, story and photos to share with people that may be interested. For more information on how you can help or how to donate, please visit our campaign on Indiegogo: Support Our Farm To Become Sustainable.

Sure we would have wanted to write even more about us, since our story is full of experiences of all sorts. But your time, Dear Friend, is valuable. We do hope that we managed to give you an overall image of who our parents are and what they want.

Photo Gallery:

Thank you so much for listening and helping,
The Coolorburbians

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