In the Polish Mobility which will take place on 24.-28.4.2017, we have prepared the following program for the participants:
On Tuesday, April 25, 2017, some pupils of our school participated in the well-known program of "Fruitfarming" under the European Program Erasmus+. This time we went to the northeast of Poland, near the Belarusian border. We were based in the town Supraśl and there were star-shaped excursions to surrounding farms held. There are about 4.5 thousand inhabitants; the town area covers 6 km2.
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We walked through this beautiful town on the very first day in the morning. First of all, we saw the huge monastery, built in Renaissance style. There is also the museum in the monastery; unfortunately we could not visit it due to the off-season opening hours. Then we walked along the river and the adjacent park. The historical character of the town is supported by the fact that the town is not interfered by concrete buildings. All-wooden buildings, including family houses, are typical for the town of Supraśl and even for the whole northeast region of Poland. The short walk is over; we get on the coach to visit the largest blueberry farm in Europe. On the way, we see nothing but the large field or meadows, sometimes interwoven by pine forests and birch woods.
The blueberry farm covers the area of 600 hectares, which means it the largest blueberry farm in Europe. This primacy can be realized thanks to diligence and tenacity of the Wilczewski family. The first attempts to plant blueberries occurred in 1995, however without any success. So, everything began a year later. The first seedlings were imported from America and Morocco. Preparation of blueberry bushes takes time of about 2 years (once they reach the height of 40-60 cm), while in a plastic greenhouse before being planted on the field. Mr. Jerzy Wilczewscy, the family farm owner, says that a good year is when the plant gives about 4 kg of fruit. The farm owner eliminates wildlife animal damage by thorough fencing of all the hunting areas. The farm is actually used in experimental ways, due to testing of new varieties (this is not done anywhere else in Europe). They grow the following varieties, for example: Toro, Arora, Liberty, Red King, Draper. Blueberry bushes are fertilized and chemically treated - but such in the ways the pollinators are not affected by. They buy up to 300 bumble-bee hives every year to get even higher productivity. They do not process the blueberries any further; they export them in fresh state throughout Europe, Russia and even to Japan.
In addition to blueberry plantations, the family owns the deer field with the size of 400ha; the animals are grown for both meat and trophy shooting. Previously, they used to have even 400 pieces of deer; today they have only 200 of them. One animal gives about 100 kg of meat.
In winter times, the whole family travels around the world to watch what others do, focusing mainly on storage and maintenance of blueberries in their natural state. We were given some food and refreshment after finishing the presentation of their farm.
The afternoon program of organic apple tree cultivation was cancelled. Instead, we had tour of the town of Białystok where we spent 2 hours. And this is the end of the Tuesday’s program.
On Wednesday, we visited the family farm dedicated to cultivation of aronias. Aronia is a type of small red fruits currently very popular due to positive effects on human health. It mainly works against civilization diseases, eye diseases, high blood pressure and also as the total detoxication to clean the body. Like most small fruits, it is also used for making juices, jams and marmalades, wines, etc. Since it is not appealing to all people as for its taste, it is often processed in combination with other fruits, such as pears, or together with apple cider. It is very well resistant against freezing temperatures and non-vulnerable to diseases. The price of organic aronia is about 0.5 EUR / 1kg.
The farm began to grow this plant in 2005; this kind of cultivation is very popular in the northeast of Poland. The plantation was awarded with the organic cultivation certificate, applicable throughout Europe for the purpose of export. In the region, this certificate is held by only one other farm nearby, even though other farms also meet the conditions for organic farming. Well, the others have not yet asked for the certificate. Fruits of aronia are harvested right after harvesting the currants in September, using a harvester to shake the fruits out of the plants, but also manually with 8 permanent employees in the farm. Easy harvesting is assisted by properly cutting of plants which are not fertilized to prevent rapid growth. Aronia is grown at the distance of about 4 m between plant rows and 70-80 cm between the plants themselves. The total area of the aronia plantation is 1.3ha. This area gives the average annual yield of 9-10 tons of fruits of aronia. However, the total area of all lands, even out of the plantation, is about 10ha; the owners run Agro ecotourism, they organize workshops, such as those for cheese production, wickerwork products, etc. This is the very popular and well-known place because the farm even won the prize for the best organic farm.
Later, we moved to another agrotouristic site, that one called Gifts of Natura, focusing on organic growing and processing of herbs. In the large site there were many places interesting for tourists, up to 80 persons can be accommodated and spend their free time; there is also the old wooden Catholic church of the 17th Century; there are also the halls overall processing and production of herbal products. About 100 collectors and employees are responsible for processing, care and mainly collection.
The enterprise has been operating for 25 years and producing a wide range of products of organic cultivation on herbaceous plantations. The products include, for example, cold-pressed oils, such as hempy, linseed, pumpkin, beetroot, chia, thistle, nigella or pink oils (mainly the unprocessed residues are used during production of this oil to make cakes used as animal feed). Coconut oil is a very special product; it must be prepared separately at a different temperature and cannot be used, for example, for frying; however, it is very popular in cosmetics as balsam. Another factory hall is used for production of express teas (tea bags), using a mechanical machine. Then we saw packing workshop for spice packs (curcumin, saffron - cannot be collected mechanically and therefore it is expensive, cardamom and many others), strewn herbal teas, etc. All the products are produced as those free of sodium glutamate. In the course of 5 years, the site will be expanded by laboratories to assess safety of products (samples have currently been sent to other laboratories).
However, before the plants reach the production halls, they have to grow on large plantations which are divided into several parts, such as those for forest plants, aquatic plants, those for classic herb cultivation, etc. In the forest, we saw the very rare Lycopodium Clavatum, Athyrium Filix (young tillers are edible, those older are poisonous), Pulmonaria Officinalis (for respiratory tracts), Hepatica Nobilis (for inflammation of liver) and typical forest plants such as anemones, Aegopodium Podagraria, nettles (those young as well as those for eating) and also Oxalis Acetosella or also the invasive plants like for instance hogweed. And, of course, we must mention Hierochloe Odorata, so typical for this region, which is used to prepare the alcoholic drink called Zubrovka.
Blueberry Plantations 25.4.2017 The family farm run by Mr. Jerzy Wielczewsci with his wife and two sons.
The total area of the farm is 1,000ha; the area of 400ha is intended for growing blueberries - it is the largest plantation in Europe where over 4,000 people work during a season, which means 300 people per weekend. The first blueberry was planted in 1995. They buy blueberries seedlings and grow them in greenhouses. When they are 50cm high, they are planted out on a plantation and then they are cut every year to get a certain height. The best varieties of all over the world are present only here in the farm due to the fact that the seedlings would have lost their value if being in more farms. Some varieties, for example those in Morocco, give fruits only within the period of 7 years, so, conditions for growth and climate are very important because the same variety elsewhere gives the fruits within other periods of time. Blueberries are exported as fresh ones to Europe and Russia; they were even sold in Japan; the most expensive price of blueberries was 150 EUR per kilogram. They are good for eyes and therefore they are used by American pilots who need to have "four" eyes. In case of good and fertile season, one plant gives 4kg per year. Good blueberries are, for example, Toro or Red King. The farm has been drawing funds from the EU. But it is still just a small part of what they invest. In the winter times, they go to other farms to see how the things are there, but not only for operation of a farm; they are also interested in marketing. They buy their bumblebees because they are able to reach further than bees; they buy 300 hives for one year.
In the remaining area of 600ha, the family grows deer. In 2006, they had more than 380ha of pastures in the town called Ruda and 500ha of pastures in Szudzialowo a Krynki, district of Sokolski. Animals are protected by the 100-kilometre fence. This place is considered to be the cleanest area in Poland. Even the experienced farmers from Scotland, England, Czech Republic, Hungary and France come to learn in this farm. They are planning to increase the number of deer to several thousand in the next few years, which will make them the largest breeding farm of deer in Europe.
National Park of White Tower (Bialowieza)
It is the most famous national park in Poland and perhaps in the entire European territory. It lies on the border of Poland and Belarus. It also includes the Museum of the Bialowieza National Park where we can see preparations of several dozen species of animals living in the national park. At the border there is the fence dividing these two countries; tourists and animals are not allowed to go from one side to the other. The area is about 1,400 km2. The park is the UNESCO biosphere reserve. There are over 12,000 species of animals, most of which are insects, spiders, etc. There are also 32 species of fish, 250 species of birds (such as Haliaeetus Albicilla, Tetrao Urogallus, Ciconia nigra...) and 58 species of mammals (the most famous is European Bison, and also Tarpans - wild horses, wolves, mooses...). Bisons were completely exterminated in 1919. Last few individuals survived in the European ZOOs. However, Poland bought 4 bisons in 1923 and began to re-grow them. In 1939, the herd included 16 pieces of animals. Currently, 250-300 pieces of animals live in the Polish part; the park becomes crowded for them. In the Belarusian part, there are about 300 pieces of animals. So-called Zubroid is very interesting; it is the bison crossed with domestic cow. In recent years, wolves have also spread a lot; they begin to cause considerable damage in this area. For example, they attack dogs in nearby villages. Flora is also very rich here. Forests cover 96% of the total area of the national park. There are over 1,000 species of plants and trees growing here. There is also a very large number of trees reaching the trunk circumference of over 600cm at the height of 130cm. They are usually the oaks. The biggest one is so-called Big Mamamushi, having the circumference of 690cm, or also the Jagiellonian Oak under which Władysław Jagiełło was resting in 1410. All the trees which lose their lives in the national park for some reason remain in the forest; they are not taken away to be processed or used for burning. Time by time, the wood begins to decompose and can be used as a shelter and suitable place to live for various species of small animals. These are eaten by the larger ones; it means that ecosystem is completely preserved.