Ruslan Panchenko, 21, is following his family's farming legacy and has been growing grapes for the past 5 years.
"My father was engaged in grapes initially. He planted a few bushes for himself, but he has no time take care of them," says Ruslan. Growing started as a hobby but soon developed into a passion for the business of grapes.
Ruslan regularly visited MEDA's UHBDP (Ukraine Horticulture Business Development Project) project events to network and to exchange lessons learned with other UHBDP participants. He wanted qualitative and systematic information about growing grapes, notably how to select and breed new varieties.
". . . the people who work in the project, are very open - they always meet clients' needs. All the selection of grapes is a private development, everything that I know I learned from owners in private business."
In 2016 Ruslan won an award at the Golden Grape exhibition.
The project also helped Ruslan find sales markets for his grapes. He attributes a sizeable increase in his client base to this support, and is now selling seedlings online. Ruslan recalls,
"I used to sell grapes myself on the market, but now there is a lack of time, so we sell it in bulk . . . UHBDP certainly helped, so that the information about me and my grapes spread widely on the internet. In the past years, some products were left for the spring, but this year everything was already sold out and ordered in September."
Initially his father was skeptical about his entrance into the grape business, but now his success has brought him awards, profits and recognition. Ruslan has a YouTube channel where he teaches how to grow grapes. He's also started publishing articles in farming magazines.
Ruslan plans to significantly expand his farm to 1 hectare and continue to deal with grape breeding. He is a 5th year student at the Faculty of Management of Mykolaiv National Agrarian University.