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best practice, greenpeace, open farm | 21.07.2016

Ecological apple farming: mission is possible!

Greenpeace Bulgaria runs open farm days for Bulgarian farmers at ecological farms around the country. The initiative was launched on 23 June in the Montana region of north-west Bulgaria. Pavlin Pantov, owner of an organic apple farm in the village of Dolno Belotinci, opened his garden gates to share his experience as an ecological farming pioneer. The open farm visit concluded with a discussion about ecological solutions to agriculture and how they can be scaled up to trigger change in the current industrial agricultural model.

Photo: Ivan DONCHEV /Greenpeace

Pavlin has hardly been an orchard man all his life. He’s been learning on the job since he started his garden 6 years ago. He now has 2 orchards, one of which has 20,000 trees. He admits that it’s not an easy task and he has learned hard lessons by making mistakes. For instance, this year, the apples were damaged by a big hailstorm in June. Pavlin has now started planning how to prevent this from happening again, and he hopes that next year the garden will be fully equipped with nets to stop the hail affecting the fruit.

This is definitely not his boldest experiment on the farm. One year, he noticed that the branches of some of the trees were shrunken and blackened. Samples were tested and it turned out that a disease called fire blight was the cause – a serious concern for apple producers because it can destroy an entire orchard. Pavlin was advised to uproot and burn all the affected trees. However, he decided to take another course and try to save the trees instead of destroying them. Ultimately, he was successful, without using any synthetic chemical inputs.

Some alternative methods he uses for pest control include spraying the trees with fermented nettle infusion. This is also a great way to feed the plants – a type of green fertilizer.

Pavlin aspires to turn the whole area around his farm, right down to the river Ogosta, into an ecological farming zone. He has even started trying to persuade his neighbours that they should also start producing ecologically. The young farmers who visited Pavlin’s farm were inspired by his example and motivated to follow it.