Lidya Piatrova from Minsk and Olga Galamaka from Mahileu came to Biz4all-2 social entrepreneurship training programme with an idea they were already implementing: natural farming. Lidya works in Minsk and has created Sianie (“Shining”) gardening centre, which, in addition to selling gardening-related goods, also provides advice to customers and organizes a natural farming school — all the while keeping a very chill and friendly atmosphere, where every customer feels like a welcome guest and can receive answers to all of their questions.
Biz4all-2 training is part of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator” programme organized by ODB Brussels (Belgium) in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands) with financial support from the European Union.
To Novosibirsk for gardening knowledge
Lidya became interested in natural farming by chance. She had worked in retail for many years when her younger daughter developed a food allergy, so the family decided to start growing organic vegetables, fruit and berries. They bought a plot of land in the Nalibokskaya Puscha area and began to study principles of agriculture. “I was really interested in working on land. Together with my daughter, we would keenly observe how it all grew. I was online all the time, searching for agriculture-related videos and articles, and one day I stumbled upon a website dedicated to natural farming. I tried to apply these principles on our patch of land and saw the results almost immediately. Everything I had to do was to plot out the rows and fill them with plant residue — and I received a huge crop without even having to constantly weed out the plants, loosen the soil and dig”.
Olga Galamaka from Mahileu and Lidya Piatrova from Minsk pitch their project at a Biz4all-2 training
Photo by: Anzhelika Grakovich
The concept of natural farming inspired Lidya so much that she quit her job — she had been working as a deputy director of a furniture store — and bought tickets to Novosibirsk, home to the first natural farming centre “Sianie” (“Shining”), which organizes two-day courses for beginners. Lidya describes that the seminars provided her with her clear instructions on how to open a similar centre back in her own city. In addition to the ready-made work scheme, the Novosibirsk centre also has one condition: participants have to commit to organizing a school of natural farming in their own city, as well as to experiment with crops on their own land. It was also in the far-away city of Novosibirsk that Lidya met Olga Galamaka, who travelled there to learn how to develop the work in Mahileu. Up until that point, Belarus had just one natural farming centre, which had operated in Homel for more than nine years.
Lidya left these carrots to winter under a snow cap on her patch of land and then harvested them in the autumn
Preserving the land: specifics of natural farming
Gardening centre “Sianie” has operated in Surganova street in Minsk for more than six months. At a first glance, this is a regular shop selling seeds, agricultural tools and harvest treatment drugs. However, the goal of natural farming and all the natural farming centres is to not only sell but to help people as well. This past winter, Lidya has already organized a training course in natural farming: she led a number of free seminars from November to March, bringing in a group of forty regular participants.
In the weeks leading up to the gardening season, Biz4all-2 teams also learnt about seeds in between their training sessions
Photo: Alyona Lis
Proponents of natural farming do not practice annual ploughing. They drop seeds right into stubble, having treated them with organic preparations made from antifungal herbs. The crops are also sown at a reduced rate, so as not to make plants compete for nutrition and sunlight.
The gardening centre “Sianie” only sells products Lidya believes in and has tested herself. This means that each customer can get a first-hand professional consult. First months have shown that the shop has a good turnover, and Lidya is already looking for a second shop assistant — not just a responsible person but a specialist who would love land as much as she does herself. “We are not just a shop — we are a friendly gardening centre. We treat our customers like old friends, offering them a way to have good crops without fertilizers and pesticides, while preserving the fertility and health of the soil. Our goal is to teach people that cultivating land and achieving good crops is not that difficult, even though a lot of people think it is. I want young people to go to the country and enjoy their time there, so that they could work on land without having to spend all their time and energy there. Natural farming helps to achieve that. Our gardening centre is a place where Belarusians can discuss their farmland problems”.
A class in the gardening school in Minsk
It all starts with a plan
Olga was the one who suggested that the team should apply to the training programme. The entrepreneurs think that a keen person will always find things they need. “At the trainings, people are the main source of inspiration for me. It can be challenging to study throughout the weekend after you have had a difficult work week, but then you meet an expert who is really enthusiastic about what they do and feel a burst of energy yourself. For example, I was so impressed by Katsiaryna Kaurova; I really admire such active and open-hearted people. Jules, entrepreneur from the Netherlands, introduced approaches to business that I had not been familiar with, and this also turned out to be very useful in practice”.
Lidya Piatrova from Minsk and Olga Galamaka from Mahileu during the opening day of the gardening centre “Sianie”, Minsk
Photo by: instagram.com
First the training in Novosibirsk, and then Lidya’s practical work and her studies at the Biz4all school made it clear that a business needs a clear plan. “My business means working with suppliers and dealing with a lot of paperwork. But I’m not the only one who has been drawn to natural farming — my husband has now also quit his job, and we are developing out family business together”.
Text by: Valeriya Nikalaichyk
Photo by: Alyona Lis
|The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.|
The material was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with support from the European Union.