Training Centre for Biodynamic Agriculture, Ecology and Culture
The farm Schiwa Semlja Potutory GmbH
Kolkhoz - the beginning of a large project
The former kolkhoz or Soviet collective farm, Potutory, is in Western Ukraine, on the outskirts of the small village of the same name. Until 2000, the collective farm was managed by three surrounding villages. At this time, the farm had numerous large, agricultural buildings such as animal buildings, barns, an old seed cleaning and drying installation, a grain mill, a dwelling house and community centre, all of which were in need of renovation. The latter, known as the “prophylactorium”, housed a services centre for medical care of staff (dentist, medical service) and a cinema.
When the farm was shut down, the resources and ground were divided up among the 250 former employees. As the years went by, time began to leave its mark on the buildings, farmland and the machinery that was lying around. The villagers transported away any materials that could be used for their own purposes. After a few years, Ivan Bojko, acting entirely in the interests of the local population, asked the Schiwa Semlja organisation to take over the former kolkhoz and rebuild it together with him. Ivan Bojko teaches organic farming at the agricultural college in the nearby small town of Bereschan and also manages his own, small, organic farm. Ivan Bojko is a father and a well-known figure in the area.
The founding of “Schiwa Semlja Potutory GmbH”
In spring 2007, the Schiwa Semlja organisation, together with Ivan Bojko, founded a GmbH with a charitable focus. This was made financially possible by negotiating private loans and donations. In 2014, the Schiwa Semlja organisation acquired the GmbH from the former own-ers Rainer Sax and Ivan Bojko.
The project is taking shape and growing. Since the GmbH was founded, it has been possible to realise a considerable number of the aims that had been set. The support of our many pa-trons, foundations and a fund made it possible to buy the first agricultural equipment, to repair and in some cases, renovate the most dilapidated buildings, to set up a deep-litter barn and much more.
Intercultural encounters, social exchange and acceptance of the farm in the surrounding area
The farm has visibly come to life in recent years. Swiss and Ukrainian staff, work placement students from Western Europe, Swiss people doing community service and other volunteers managed the many labour-intensive tasks with great dedication. The repeated dedication of class ten of a Rudolf Steiner school from Switzerland, from Dnjepropetrowsk (Ukraine) and an Evangelical group of young tradesmen from Horgen, Switzerland, proved to be a great help. A lively exchange developed between the young people from other countries and young people from the village of Potutory. Sporting activities, dancing and food helped to break down the language barriers. A group of disabled people from Ukraine came to stay, which was enjoyable and mutually enriching. Annual festivals, an open-door day and other occasions that provide revitalisation and relaxation are a welcome break and source of variety in the tough, everyday life in Ukraine.
As a result of this kind of contact, encounters with village residents and giving work to em-ployees and resident tradesmen, the events on the farm are mainly met with goodwill. The Potutory farm is also known in Bereschani because the people who work on the farm sell milk and cheese at the market and in food shops.
Management of the farm
The farm is managed by a democratic team made up of managers from the various areas. In Ukraine, a business needs a director as a figurehead. People on the outside can see that Ivan Bojko embodies this role. His knowledge and experience in administrative, legal, societal and many other matters that specifically concern Ukraine are indispensable. It is largely down to him that it has so far been possible to steer the boat safely through the many storms.
As soon as the farm becomes a healthy, vibrant, self-supporting organism, we hope to lease it out, preferably to Ukrainians or a team of Ukrainians and Western Europeans. It is important to us that the farm is managed according to the principles of the model.
Agriculture, dairy and herb cultivation
Numerous animals, which are indispensable for a biodynamic organism, have already been living on the farm for several years. The herd of cows is growing steadily. However, it will take a few more years to achieve the goal of increasing the stock of cattle to one hundred animals. The milk sells well in the local area because of its high quality.
When the reconstruction of the farm began, it was possible to lease a total of 400 ha of pasture and agricultural land. (It is temporarily not possible to buy land in Ukraine). Years ago, Iwan Bojko’s mother went from door to door, dedication that resulted in around 250 lease agree-ments being signed so that we can now cultivate these fields. The minority of it is meadow and pasture. Buckwheat, bread cereals, cereal seeds and forage plants are grown on the rest of the land.
Former member of the board and co-founder of the organisation, Cristina Lieberherr, has been cultivating a herb garden in the farmyard for four years. Every year it gets more beautiful, larger and more diverse. The rich harvest has been used to produce herbal salt and, since last year, herbal tea, in attractive packaging. Ukrainian women are also working on this project and are happy with the income.
Panorama vom Hügel aus, der von unseren Äckern und Wiesen umgeben ist.
Training centre for biodynamic agriculture
The image of the farmer in Ukraine
The job of farmer, as we know it in Switzerland, has never existed in Ukraine. In the planned economy of Soviet times, all workers were highly specialised and things are still very much the same today. There are excellent tractor drivers for cultivating the fields, but they are not involved in the other work.
Looking after animals is primarily women’s work. Other jobs are done by workers that have been enlisted. There are agricultural colleges, but they do not teach agriculture as such. These secondary schools are more like training establishments for a wide variety of subsequent jobs.
Ecosystem, basic foods and teaching organic and biodynamic cultivation methods
Vast areas in Ukraine have been cultivated with monocultures of sustainable raw materials by foreign investors for a few years now. Over time, this puts a strain on the ground and weakens the ecosystem. Since basic foods in Ukraine are often of poor and sometimes dubious quality, demand for healthy, nutritious food is steadily increasing. For that reason it is very important and forward-thinking to give farmers who are interested in organic and biodynamic farming the required knowledge. This equips them with good prerequisites for building a solid exis-tence on the basis of a living organism.
The training concept intended for this purpose offers lectures, seminars and courses. The farm presented is used for practical visual instruction in agriculture that protects the soil, production of preparations and their application, dairying, herb cultivation and gives an insight into a farm that is functioning and thriving on its own resources. Training begins this spring - 2015. Two initial courses are being planned.
Ukrainian partner organisation
One crucial reason that contributed to the implementation of the planned idea is the Ukrainian sister organisation “Schiwa Semlja Lviv”, which cooperates closely with us. As a result of its initiative, Maria Thun’s seed calendar was translated into Ukrainian and Russian. Two of the members also hold lectures and courses about organic and biodynamic cultivation methods and the use and production of biodynamic preparations, in Lviv and large parts of Ukraine. Training in Potutory is organised and conducted by this group and other specialists.
The farmyard and training area project has already made great progress in its development. Because we have always had to get by on moderate financial resources, we were not able to make important investments in machinery and buildings, the waste concept and waste-water treatment plants.
We are hoping for continued support in the form of financial donations, practical help and supportive benevolence!
Irene Zimmerli / Hans Kuratli As of January 2015
PC donations account:
40-963-0 IBAN CH93 0839 2000 0040 08006 ACACIA Fonds für Entwicklungszusammenarbeit Reference: for Potutory