From pitchfork to fork in Bohinj
Situated in the heart of Triglav National Park, Bohinj bets on green tourism, which also entails preserving the cultural landscape typical of the area. But with the focus shifting from farming to tourism this could come under threat, so Bohinj launched a unique project which combines the two sectors in a sustainable way.
Pasture-based livestock farming and dairy production used to be the main source of livelihood in Bohinj, but many mountain pastures, meadows and fields have since become overgrown.
To turn the trend around the Bohinj Municipality adopted a ten-year agriculture development strategy in 2021 where the focus is on opportunities afforded in cooperation with tourism.
This year, the local tourism board Turizem Bohinj launched a project in which local farmers supply local restaurants and hotels with vegetables and crops directly from their fields and gardens.
Bohinj is still home to a few large farms, but crop cultivation in particular is becoming scarce, Bohinj Mayor Jože Sodja said, so they decided to expand the Bohinjsko/From Bohinj brand of top-quality local products and services to vegetables and crops.
The project's head Branko Ravnik recently told TV Slovenija that seven farms had signed on and virtually all hospitality providers in the municipality.
"We've secured three hectares of land, 60 ares for legumes and the rest for field crops. We're selling to 17 buyers, from large to boutique providers.
The first deliveries were made in June and the produce, such as barley, wheat, corn, spelt, cabbage, potatoes, onions and carrots, are delivered in returnable wooden crates.
"If you run out of anything, you just give them a call and they will bring you vegetables literally from the garden within half an hour, an hour," said Branko Slamar from Gostilna Pr'Hrvatu.
"Our field is in the direct vicinity of Bohinj ECO Hotel and the guests can watch me pick and at their next meal they will have the vegetables on their plate," farmer Marija Žvan told the public broadcaster.
Even though the project has only just started and part of the produce has been destroyed by hail, the farmers involved have sold 3.5 tonnes of vegetables this year.
The first step was to identify the needs of the hospitality sector through a survey, after which several young farmers were invited to take part in the project. A seasonal sowing plan was drawn up and farmland divided between farmers and vegetable growers.
Although some hospitality providers were reserved at first, the project soon caught on. "We set fair prices and buyers are happy with what they get," Ravnik told the Slovenian Press Agency.
The produce is also sold at the local market in Ribičev Laz via a local cooperative, attracting foreign visitors in particular.
The Alpinia group, which manages Bohinj's hotels owned by crypto-millionaire Damian Merlak, are also happy with the initial results.
From the very beginning the group made it its mission to support the local community in any way they can, which includes agriculture, said Alpinia director Jure Repanšek.
At first it had been hard because there was no linking element to connect farmers with buyers until Turizem Bohinj took over the role, he added.
He said visitors definitely noticed local produce and products, which have a special added value. "This is clear in their response and farmers say the guests who try the products also buy them," he said.