There was a recent article in the New York Times talking about how Greeks are going back to the country, and the land to weather the economic storm. Their country is in much worse shape than ours with unemployment hitting 18 percent, and a whopping 35 percent for young people between the ages of 15 and 29.
The article goes on to describe several young people who have abandoned the city for the country life of their grandparents, in some cases to the dismay of their relatives. These young people are well educated, holding four year degrees, and one just shy of a PhD. They have worked hard, only to see job prospects go up in smoked. Most Greeks, even low income Greeks, own land the article notes, making it a last stand of sorts.
Greece has a very rich food history, and turning to the land may not be as dismal as some make it out to be. I have seen more than one travel host visit Greece and despite all the history and beautiful coastline, the inevitable focus is the food. As a country that has consistently depended on tourism, enriching the food scene with small farm, artisanal products doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me.
These well-educated farmers will examine farming with a newly trained eye applying their science, math and technology skills that previous generations didn’t have. This is something we’re seeing here in the United States. Agriculture is hard work and includes a lot of manual labor, but success also depends on understanding biodynamics and soil elements, among other things.
But perhaps going back to the land represents something we talk about a lot here: resilience.
“We invented civilization, and we’ll take it back,” Dimitris Kaloupis said over a lunch of stewed lamb that he raised himself. If the Greek economy really plummets beyond repair, “I will take the rock in my hand and squeeze it, and from the water that comes out of it, I’ll make pilaf to feed my daughter. We’ll manage.”
Farming may provide the safety net that families need to survive tough times, but it is also setting them up for a more sustainable future.