Springtime on an organic farm in Aegean region
Wilco van Herpen Hürriyet Daily News
In Turkey, there are 100 TaTuTa farms and all of them more or less work in the same way. The initiator of the project is the Buğday Foundation.If you want to grow some nice organic vegetables you have to start with good materials. I had a chance and I grabbed it. Last week I went to Yerlim farm in the Aegean province of Kuşadası’s Davutlar village in order to see how the people were working there. After I spoke with Gürsel Tonbul, the owner of the farm and restaurant, I decided that the best way to show and experience organic agriculture is to start with the beautiful but smelly products of the cows at the farm. This is the starting point for a lot of products at the farm.
So there I was, in the stable of a big organic farm just outside Kuşadası. The farm is a TaTuTa farm which means that people can work there on a voluntary base. The golden rule for those TaTuTa farms is that you work without getting paid, but for sure you will learn a lot about organic farming. Not everybody is allowed to work and learn at the farm, there is one criteria: the owner of the farm also wants to learn from you, you need to have special skills or knowledge. In Turkey there are around 100 of these TaTuTa farms and all of them more or less work the same. The initiator of this project was the Buğday Foundation, which is involved in conserving nature and promoting the cultivation and consumption of organic food.
Collecting cow droppings
So there I was at the farm. It was my first day and I wanted to work. I had a choice though; I could start by picking cranberries, weeding in a zucchini field, working in the greenhouse or cleaning the stable where cows walk around. My idea was to start at the beginning.
The cows at Yerlim farm can choose to stay in the stable or to go outside and enjoy the sun or ruminate in the shade. Most of the cows were outside that day, which made my work a bit easier. To collect the droppings of the cows there is a system, but that day it did not work quite perfectly. So I found myself standing in cow manure up to my ankles, working with a long stick to push the droppings into a channel that transports it to a liquid manure pit. There the manure is mixed and the liquid is separated (and later mixed with water used for irrigation) and the dry manure is used on the fields to make the soil more fertile.
Spring is a nice time to be at a farm. You can see newly born lambs, the trees are full of blossom or, a bit later in spring, you can enjoy picking and eating early spring fruits like black or white mulberries. I was lucky, people were collecting mulberries at the farm I was at. They cover the ground with big pieces of fibrous mat. Then one man climbs in the tree and start shaking the branches of the tree. He jumps from one branch to another and the black mulberries fall down in an endless stream. Once the man climbs into a tree the girls start picking up all the mulberries; their hands are pitch black, colored by the juice of the mulberries. Their clothes are covered in stains and they have their head covered completely with a veil to protect themselves from the biting sun. They are surprised when I join them picking up the mulberries and help them to drag the mats to another tree in order to separate the leaves that came down together with the mulberries.
After collecting all the mulberries they are brought to a place in the farm where a woman empties all the cases into a huge pan. On a wooden fire the mulberries boil for hours until they have become a thick syrup. The woman constantly stirs the mulberry juice with a big wooden spoon, lifting it up in the air and checking if the mulberry mixture has become thick enough. Once it has reached the right consistency, she takes the pan of the fire. What I see here is the traditional way of conserving fruit; this is how it has been done in Turkey throughout the ages.
It was late afternoon when I decided to go to the restaurant to have a bite to eat. The chef had prepared a special organic meal for me and I was flabbergasted. Eating this food I understood the difference nowadays between “normal” food and organic food.
One more thing: you do not have to work here in order to see this place. Yerlim farm is perfect for a day out with the kids as well. They can ride a pony, see many different kinds of animals and you can visit the museum. Do not forget to do some shopping so that once you are back at home you can prepare your food and still get the taste and smell of this beautiful farm.