Natalia: Cultivating a future (Ukraine)
Before the Project: I used to be a National Champion in academic rowing. When I finished my education, I moved back to the Zaporizhzhya oblast to work as a kindergarten and gym teacher, but I felt that there was no room to grow in this field. When my greatgrandfather moved to Zaporizhzhya years ago, he said he was “bringing his family to abundance” and I feel as though it is the wish of my ancestors for me to work this land! A friend told me about the many opportunities of the Project. I took it as a sign to start cultivating medicinal herbs, which had always been a part of my life as a child, athlete, and caretaker.
Project Activity: The project gave me ideas and confidence-- the well-founded idea that medicinal herbs can be profitable and the confidence that comes with knowing how to do things right. I grow Lemon Balm, Calendula, Catnip, Thyme, Tarragon, Oregano and Mint on 0.5 hectares. I often go to seminars in Crimea, run by the Umyut cluster, to learn about the best way to cultivate and care for these herbs. Since I have had such a positive experience with the Project, I encourage others to cultivate medicinal herbs as well, and I run field days on my property to show them how. I only have a small territory, so I know that in order to do this as a business, it is essential to work together and consolidate. The Project ultimately connected me with like-minded people that see the value in medical herb cultivation and organic farming principles. Along with 40 others in my community, I formed an organic cooperative. We are officially registered and our members have all gotten seeds, but we are still experimenting with the best ways to operate.
Outcome: I used to grow herbs for myself, but the Project showed me how I could do it on a business level. Not only do I make a living doing what I love, but I also feel proud of providing an organic, high-quality product to the community. In life you need to be happy, you need to do what you love, and I can truly say that I love my job! In regards to how the Project has impacted my life economically, I started with nothing so there has definitely been significant growth! I sell my products myself; I go to festivals and exhibitions where I meet buyers, I give samples, and everyone buys my herbs- my product truly sells itself! I have always gone after my dreams, and my dream today is for our cooperative to become a prestigious worldwide brand. It is about time for people to stop cheating each other and start producing high quality products for others to enjoy.