A couple of weeks ago a retired Greek pharmacist shot himself outside the country’s parliament in protest at austerity measures that include major cuts to pensions. But alongside this story of despairing protest comes news of youths who are adapting to their country’s plight by getting back to basics.
Applications to the American Farm School near Thessaloniki trebled last year and are expected to double this year. Many young Greeks have a patch of land inherited from an elderly parent or grandparent and it seems that they are looking to at least provide themselves with food.
Historically, the farm school’s applicants had been children of farmers from the surrounding countryside, but now more and more city kids are expressing an interest: a sign that the tables are turning for this formerly unpopular career.
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“To be honest, it was not my first choice,” admitted Thanos Bizbiroulas, who is in his first year studying for a degree in precision agriculture, “but in the current conditions it seems like the right choice,” he continued.
Fellow student Vangelis Evangelou agrees that prospects are looking up for the profession. “Young people thought that the future would be working in an office,” he said, “but now they know they were wrong and they are going back to farming.”
The Farm School, founded by a Christian missionary over 100 years ago, today boasts some of the most high tech facilities in the country. Agriculture declined when Greece joined the European Union several decades ago (I believe this was the story in Ireland also) but the sector grew by 32,000 jobs between 2008 and 2010 — mostly filled by Greek nationals — and the new breed of farmers will be more skilled and entrepreneurial than before.
A high school student who is also studying journalism at the Farm School displays a sturdy sort of spirit that should help Greece become economically stable once again:
“No matter how much the taxes are increased or the salaries are decreased, if you have knowledge of farming and produce food on your own, you won’t feel the influence of the economic burden as much,” she said. “You can always, at least, survive.”