The Sad Part of the Trip
So far my time in Croatia has been a trip of a lifetime. I’ve been visiting small (1 hectare/ 2.47 acres) and large (7.5 hectares/18.5 acres) farms, the large a far cry from large farms in the states (2025 hectares/5000 acres or more). The smaller of the smallest are more my speed. Yesterday brought a trip to a farm of a 75 year-old orchardist, growing 1100 peach & nectarine trees and 300 apples. His name is Ivan and when he and his wife took retirement from their respective jobs in 2003 they purchased 1.7 hectares (3.46 acres). Interestingly he is growing this project for his son and daughter-in-law, who are taking over the family business and are the crew that goes to the market. I love what Dave Ramsey says “A good man builds wealth for his grandkids” and this is exactly what Ivan is doing, and I told him so.
I luckily was able to spend two hours wandering with him through his orchard speaking different languages and pretty much understanding each other. As the Tomislav, the interpreter, was trying to decipher the unique orcharding words Ivan was sharing with me I was teaching Tomislav about what Ivan was sharing. I love having known something for so long that I can understand it in almost any language (OK well at least in Croatian.)
On Friday night, we visited the Petric vineyard. But before I go any further let me tell you about his teeny vineyard. The Petric family were the perfect hosts and Danijela (pronounced Daniella) showed me around the Vineyard. All told they probably had 300 vines on 5000 square feet of dirt. The weekend house, which consisted of a kitchen, bedroom and eating area, was all of 1000 square feet which included the wine cellar. As the sun set around 8:30 pm we walked in the vineyard in between the raindrops and she pointed out their massive Kiwi vine, which was easily 20 x 30, several different kinds of grapes, some for eating and some for wine, a fig and several walnut trees. Then the dinner bell rang.
Dinner begins with walnut and cherrie rakija (pronounced rokia) that is a kind of brandy, they tell us it is good for our digestion. Take a shot and it goes down smooth, with a follow-up bang…I haven’t done shots in years. It tastes great and interestingly I didn’t get a buzz from it. Hmmmmm. Then the food festivities begin with a white wine that I harvested myself from a 250-liter stainless wine barrel in the cellar. “Živjeli!” we all say (pronounced “shivilee,” which loosely translated means “cheers”) and we dive into a very tasty bowl of barley soup. I should tell you that everything that we ate this evening was ethnic Croatian food, was grown & created locally and was incredibly good, except for the fried pig fat (really) and the ultra smoked cheese, both of which I tried but did not have a taste for. The meat plate included four different kinds of pork; one so salt cured it was tasty but hard to eat and another a raw bacon that was mostly fat and very flavorful. The cheese plate went from a very hard smoked cheese to a curdled cream/cottage cheese. Bowls full of tomatoes fresh from their garden adorned the table and what is any European dinner without freshly cut bread. Man I feel the pounds adding up – it will be interesting to step on the scale when I get home…or not!
Next let me tell you about their farmers market. Koprivnica is a town and surrounding villages of 35,000 people. Their market is open 7am to 1pm…EVERY DAY. For those of you that are familiar with US based farmers markets they typically are open 1 day per week. Then there were the farmers, easily 40 of them in the main market area selling fruits, nuts, fresh and cured meats, cheeses and honey. In the center are the fresh fruit and vegetable farmers at marble (yep marble) tables. On the periphery were permanent stores with refrigerators for all that needs to go in them. These periphery stores are purchased not rented…interesting. Then in the back are a series of 45 three hundred square foot stores selling everything from bras to bandanas and hardware to chicks and chicken feed. You want it…it is here at their farmers market…I’ve never seen so many farmers, some with lots and some with not so much, every day.
Needless to say we didn’t go a day without being exposed to some kind of Croatian delicacy, traditional food, fresh grown fruit or vegetable. Without exception every single farm we visited offered drink, rakija, and home made pastries. This trip is about food, discovering the food of a different country and the food system of a different country. Food is everywhere, food culture is everywhere, food awareness is everywhere. So what the heck am I sad about?
I look at the food system they have set up here and am sad to know that in a 5 days I have to go back to Phoenix. I am very excited to see the Urban Farm and my sweetie Heidi, the sad part for me is that Phoenix’s food system pales in comparison to what they have here. What I am experiencing here is what I want to experience where I live, every day. I could pack up and move to Croatia, it is an interesting place, but I choose to come home and continue the trek of building our food economy. In the meantime, please everyone support your local farmer, shop at your farmers market, grow your own garden, lets just get moving so we can transform (insert your town here).