Gardeners english

Gardeners english


Gardeners (Pervolarides), english We are in the old part of Pylaia (one of Thessaloniki’s suburbs), on a piece of land which some people have decided to make full use of, not for building residences, but to produce seasonal groceries. We are a group of 5 people; all of us have been unemployed since 2-3 years. We have exited the labor market and the worst is that we don’t see a possibility to enter the labor market again. Basically we are a group that at first targets self-sufficiency, to reduce the money transactions between us. Beyond the first core of people there are more producers with whom we intend to exchange products. For example, we give honey, and receive beans. So, we covered our yearly needs in beans. This season we cultivate lettuce, we have planted seeds of carrots, onions, soon there will be beetroots, and whatever is suitable for this season. Later we will plant tomatoes, eggplants and so on. Whatever a family needs to be self-sufficient. Whom does this land belongs to? This land belongs to a member of our group. It is very difficult or even impossible to find the whole group gathered in one place: This is a small part of our work cycle. Here we are 2 people who deal with seasonal groceries. Also, me and one other fellow citizen practice bee-keeping. As we speak the bees are being kept in Katerini (a town 70 km away from Thessaloniki). Now, my partner is there making some Spring-time preparations. Another person who deals with dairy products is in Petralona (village 40 km away from Thessaloniki) where the sheep and goats are located. The women of the group that deal with tomato sauce, marmalade and food processing in general when we have fruits or tomatoes etc we get here and make the food processing. We have a place that is suitably prepared to make the food processing. What is the percentage of the nutritional self-sufficiency that you achieved? At this time, the first cheese is getting matured. This means that in the dairy products part we still need to work. When the dairy products are ready, in about two months, we will be able to say that we reached at least 30% in terms of self-sufficiency. In the summer we will surpass 50%. Since you came in our small land we will treat you with products that we produced: Olive oil, honey, cheese and marmalade. Our marmalade has a logo: “To take the land, the production process the labour relations and our future in our hands”. I think this expresses our self-understanding And you pass the message through… Of course! The olive oil has been produced this year (November-December 2015), it has just matured. It came from the “Solidarity olive collection” that we did in the villages of Epanomi, Mesimeri, Trilofos. 3 years ago we had started the “Solidarity olive collection” which takes place each year in November, December. Olives come from abandoned olive trees or from owners who have no interest to collect them and they say to us: “Take them and do what you want with them”. It started as a joke, and it became serious. We go to these places, we take care of the trees, we feel being part of that area, we have developed locality, because farmers and villagers see us very often. Also, we help in other agricultural labour that farmers who helped and introduced us (driving us to the olive trees etc) might have. And what you see is some people who are urban residents -we are children of the city- developing little by little another point of view and another kind of address in a society that we didn’t even know its existence. And maybe, we had negative feelings about them (the farmers) and them for us. We would say: “They do nothing all day, they just get the government’s funding”, that was the logic, and they would say: “Look at them; they are getting their money by sitting on a desk just typing letters in their computers”. So, when different societal types like these two come to an osmosis and co-operation, only good things can come up. We see that these two worlds, and especially with the new laws -the new tax and insurance laws- they start coming together. Because finally there are more resemblances than differences. And they have common interests. We are subjected to a huge humanitarian crisis. Part of this crisis is the nutritional crisis. This is not done without purpose. One country can be easily enslaved by destroying the primary sector. In this plan, -it is all about a plan- we want to react. We want to show a way. The way is not about 5-10-20-30 people that will benefit about being self-sufficient. We want to detect a political scheme to get out of the crisis. We believe that at this point there is not a political way out. The political way out will not be given by any political party. We will find it by ourselves. We are trying to find a solution in the food and production part. At the same time we are associating with everyone who is restless and looking for things. We are members of a society that was in a constant move, so we have contacts. The no-middlemen movement taught us very much, the VIOME movement, the Skouries movement, the public space reclaim movements. In all these movements we gave and took. We have a broad circle of people who want to be included -in a way- to this project and we want to include ourselves in other projects and all of us walk together. We saw that delegate logic does not work, we have to take this case in our hands. We decided not only to take the case in our hands, but also to get the hoes in our hands! What might be the model to be produced for the urban structure? We do not discover America. What we are doing has happened before in Greece, and it has happened for many decades abroad. The fact that there are uncultivated pieces of land -let them be small, let them be 10 sq meters- and that they are abandoned especially in this period of time where the food crisis is incredibly big, it’s a pity. I think that the fellow citizens should find these land pieces, Start co-operating and proceed to cultivation. What we can show here is this paradigm which is something to be copied, corrected and improved. We want to get the conclusion that people who didn’t co-operate together again test their relationships, and finally succeed. It’s not that in the end of the season you will have produced 30 kilos of tomatoes. This is one thing. The other thing is that you put yourself to test in collaborating with others. That is the most important part. Some time before we had 5 women who were single-parent family, unemployed, with unemployed husbands etc. We made a proposition to these ladies: We have a gas oven, we have two big pots, and 200 kilos of donated tomatoes. Come, and we’ll make the tomato sauce for the whole year. These ladies do not know each other. And in tomato sauce preparation you have to work in a production line. One has to co-operate with the other. The first lady washes the tomato, second lady peels it, third lady mashes it, last lady boils it. We noticed how the smile and optimism returns in the people’s faces. By doing so, they feel that they are doing something important. Your team is not a closed entity. There is a solidarity node in this place. Yes. In fact unofficially there is a solidarity node. Yesterday, for example, we distributed 200 kilos of fresh fish from the fish market in about 30 families in need. Plus other food, like pasta, tomato sauce, marmalade, beans. We make packages of them and then we distribute. Needs are enormous. Every day new families come asking for food. Or at least to cover basic needs. It is not about level of well-being, but level of survival. By giving 2 packets of pasta, 2 packets of tomato sauce and 2 packets of chickpeas to someone you just preserve him. And another week is gone by. This activity of yours caused the curiosity of the area’s inhabitants? Do they ask what you do? Usually it starts with curiosity, suspicion, and after some time, acceptance. At first, they have to accept you as part of the territory. Not all of us come from this area. One comes from Toumpa, another from the city center, another one from Asvestohori and so on. As time goes be we are building relations of trust. Pylaia was famous for its okras. Pylaia had the same chance as the whole country with the “Compensation system”. This was a co-coordinated plan. It didn’t just happen all of a sudden. Nowadays, land pieces that can be made full use are apparently little. It has to do more with self action and will of the fellow citizens to act that way, even as a hobby. You have to start from somewhere. Find a flower bed next to the road you live. Plant 3 tomato plants and see what happens. Then, cooperation comes step by step. Or, you observe other groups and see what will happen. There is always suspicion, we don’t know with whom we will cooperate, we are always afraid that someone will make fool of us. These are Greek society’s taught characteristics. But, by making contact with the people and achieving the acceptance of our “specificity”; when you have 2-3 people making this kind of project in a very dense urban structure, others might think that these 2-3 people have some kind of “specificity”, they maybe a little crazy. But, little by little, this emotion fades away. When we have a talk with them they understand that we want to produce for ourselves, for our children (if any), clean food. Take a look what you are buying. Where you are buying from. Remember the taste of tomato that you ate in your village? Is there any resemblance with the tomato you are currently eating? On the other hand, we are doing a type of work therapy which is very important. Unemployed people as you know (because more or less you lived that way also) have the problem of the free time and nothing to do with it. Plus, money shortage. All this creates a tight depression frame and low self esteem. We are feeling useless. What we are doing here, more than producing honey, olive oil, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants etc is that we put ourselves in motion, our body and soul. And we co operate between us. Co-operation is very important, it can solve many problems, even in the way we see our selves and society. Everyone is isolated, that is much known, and last few years we are assaulted by crisis, memoranda governments. That, at the time we speak there is no visible way out of this and because of that we are very pessimistic. But, we can find a way out through cooperation…

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