Holiday on a Polish organic farm
Poland stands as the connecting point between two worlds. To the west, a fully developed, post industrial society now counting the cost of ‘living beyond its means’. To the east, a massive and hungry continent struggling to attain living standards comparable to its western counterparts. Between these two extremes, at a delicate point of equilibrium, is the Polish phenomenon. A country of 40 million people with 26% of its working population still farming the land. A land rich in biodiversity and cultural expression, divided up into thousands of little farms averaging just 7 ha (16 acres) each in size.
One third of these holdings are self sufficient only. That is to say that they have no surplus food to sell, but produce just enough to feed their families and livestock. They are nearly all, by default, ‘organic’ farms as most have no interest or available finance to purchase agrochemicals or expensive machinery. Many still use horses to till the land, and preserve the fruits of their labour in the traditional farmhouse way. It is wonderfully good, wholesome food and Polish farmers are wonderfully generous, welcoming people. But this rare ecological jewel of Eastern Europe is poised to capitulate its unique qualities to the rapacious spread of the transnational corporation, – the forces of globalisation and the eastern enlargement of the European Union.
In order to alert the world to this threat, an international organisation has been established: The International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside, comprising representatives from some 18 different countries ranging from Ecuador, Canada and India. Its first conference was held on a farm near Cracow last November and the reverberations are spreading.
ICPPC was started by Jadwiga Lopata, founder of the European Centre for Ecological Agriculture and Tourism in Poland (ECEAT-Poland), and I have been elected as co-director. Jadwiga grew up on a small Polish farm and developed a great love for the countryside with its amazing diversity of wildlife and natural beauty. She is determined to fight for its future. I feel equally passionate, and have already been back three times to help alert both farmers and government officials to the dangers of climbing onto the agrichemical and GMO treadmill. Jadwiga’s pioneering spirit led her to take ECEAT to Poland and to establish a network of ecological tourism to organic farms, so now you too can support the Polish countryside and enjoy a fascinating holiday at the same time.
Jadwiga Lopata writes: “The small Polish farmers now realise that their very livelihoods and traditional ways of life are threatened. As Julian has said, Polish farmers are being pressured to produce in the Western European way, with all its harmful effects on the environment. Small scale tourism to organic farms offer small farmers a way to survive this challenge and protect their farms and lifestyles, as well as to protect the environment and the landscape, by providing them with a much-needed source of extra income and an additional outlet for their farm products. And when small farmers successfully co-operate in areas of ecological tourism and small scale production, their economic and social power increases and so does their capacity to protect the countryside and their way of life. It is still possible for Poland to take a different route from that of the large-scale chemical-intensive agriculture of Western Europe and the U.S.A. Organic farming, especially when combined with tourism, presents a great opportunity for many of our farmers to avoid the agricultural and environmental mistakes of other countries. Organic food is becoming ever more in demand in Europe and in Poland. Polish farmers have the opportunity to supply the local demand for organic foods, and that of other countries as well. By working together and by focussing on the future, farmers and visitors can help preserve Poland’s unique cultural and natural heritage, both for their own enjoyment and appreciation and that of future generations.”
ECEAT-Poland is a non-profit, charitable and educational association. We co-operate with professional tourist agencies that include ECEAT-Poland accommodation in their programmes. Our members are mainly organic farmers who welcome tourists on their farms.
ECEAT-Poland, 34 – 146 Stryszow156, Poland, Tel/Fax +48 33 879 7114 Email: Jadwiga@eceat-pl.most.org.pl or firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.eceat-poland.w.pl
ECEAT-Poland’s catalogue “Holiday on an Organic Farm” with descriptions and full contact information for over 100 ECEAT-Poland eco-tourist farms, can be ordered from www.sfo.pl/eceat/eceatord.html
Sir Julian Rose