The Next Phase of Vanos Garden Growth: The Flower Market and Tips for Plant Lovers - Post IV
Agriculture workers usually receive low wages because they have no professional connection to this field. Their income is low. A high employment rate does not mean a high income. Against this backdrop, self-employed people are more valued, trying to cover the entire cycle of production and processing and supporting job seekers by creating jobs.
A few days ago I met Vanos Garden on Facebook whose page you can see at the link:
In the digital world, Vano is distinguished by its richness of colors, colorful photos, charming videos, and such mood that will definitely make you want to buy its flowers.
Sachkhere customers are lucky, they can buy flowers in their shop. Chiatura customers can select Vano flowers twice a week. A florist has been selling flowers near the city's central square for more than a year. Followers of her page are often invited to big cities, where they get personal advice from Vano on plant care.
Vano spends the rest of his time in Sachkhere in his nursery, used to propagate, breed and grow plants.
"I live in Sachkhere, namely in Savane. I have not been in the field for a long time. I started working during the pandemic. For the first time, my friends asked me to grow some plants. Since then, I have started breeding. Sometimes I grow plants in the garden, I write about some varieties, I study and I am glad that I deserve people's love. I sell plants relatively cheaply and have more interested customers"
I work alone most of the time. The site requires special attention. Customers text you one by one, everyone needs an answer," Vano told me.
He is fully involved in the process of breeding, propagation, and sale. At the same time, however, he receives help from his friends and wife, who help take orders, answer FAQs, and ship products. Their responsibility is high because as living beings, plants have to be transported and cared for with suitable means.
Vano doesn't skimp on its own experience for the customer. Since the plant thrives differently in different environments, and under different conditions, it also receives information from the customer, because the mutual exchange of information between the customer and florist is the way to find the best form of plant care. Information is never valid if we only process, observe and present it from one side. A plant has many dimensions and we only see it from our perspective.
“I have to do at least 70%, 80% of everything. But the most tiring part of all of this is having to interact with customers online. I explain the rules of care, I describe everything. If I send it by post, the hardest and most tedious part is to pack plants in boxes to avoid damaging the plant during shipping. Of course, for me it is a pleasant tiredness, I enjoy it. If I didn't enjoy it, I really couldn't do that much.
I have had these flowers for two years. At first, I started selling online. When I physically brought it to the city, it was the spring period: from March 3 to March 8. At this time I bring plants. It was really hard at first because I had never sold anything before. I always avoided myself. At the time, when I needed it most, a friend helped me.
I couldn't stand for the sale alone. Together with her, I managed to organize these sales. My interest in flowers was so great that I could not even imagine it.
Later I thought of making a website out of it and making it available to everyone.
This interest was so great that I was asked by the region to send plants and flowers. Many people in Kutaisi, Batumi, Ozurgeti, and Tbilisi asked me to come or to send flowers. If I can't come I'll mail it, I can't send very big Christmas trees but I've mailed them. For those who ask that way, they bring it straight to their home," Vano told me.
Luckily for Vano, the news spread quickly both locally and digitally, where the 'Vano's Garden' page already has 19,000 followers.
Hundreds of people have already taken advice from him and his wife helps him every day.
Flower lovers have gathered around Vano, creating a space where they can now choose future plants together for their own collection. So chrysanthemums were found, which were the most popular last fall.
“Chrysanthemums are winter flowers, so they want to buy them more often. It can be planted in the garden and beautifies the place,” says Vano. The most interesting thing is how Vano's coexistence with flowers will continue and how he envisions business development as one of the main sources of income for his family. For Vano, such representation refers to multiple stores that can be located in central locations in major cities. Here, customers can buy flowers and get advice from the company's employees.
Plans to increase online sales in the future. The Post Office of Georgia is helping him with this. It is possible to send flowers by post as well as have flowers delivered to a location specified by us, with a courier delivering them directly to our home. As a flower lover, this made me very happy.
Even today, Vano continues to propagate and produce its flowers, sourcing its seedlings and seeds abroad to create a diverse greenhouse and nursery in Sachkhere. I believe this year will be a new step in his work. The garden of Vano will have an important say in the local production of Imereti.
The story of Georgian mycelium and a new page for mushroom lovers on digital media - Post III
A few hours ago I was browsing the pages of my friend, who are real-life farmers, and came across an interesting site. Soko.ge is a site that shares information about growing mushrooms with interested entrepreneurs. When I saw it, I immediately wanted to compliment its author. Although it has 4 posts in total, it is pretty informative. Its author is called Devi. It seems that he has been engaged in mushroom production for a long time. I called him and asked for a little interview for my blog.
We talked in the first half of the day and it turned out to be quite a lengthy phone interview. He told me that due to the lack of education and the lack of qualified personnel in production, there are few industrial productions in the country, which is why the number of small business owners who have been engaged in this activity for several years has increased. This business is really profitable, although it takes at least two cycles for a mushroom grower to become an informed professional.
Qualified education needs a qualified teacher and literature. Today in Georgia it is not possible to get such. Some time ago there were only short-term courses, which have not been held for a long time, and the increase in production depends on an intuition of an interested person.
As always, literature in the digital space is an entity. I searched the literature on mushroom production in Georgia and found the following:
Only one document was found, which is based on the experience of the Abasha Mushroom Producers Association, without any scientific intervention. We have a shortage of teaching materials. The entrepreneur himself needs to find such approaches to mushroom production that he has tested on himself. This can include experience with temperature fluctuations, humidity, light regulation, and growing mushrooms into a marketable form. It is also worth mentioning the relationship with buyers and their agreement to continuous cooperation. An entrepreneur's diligence is appreciated.
As Devi told me, anything can be learned with time, as long as you are ready. The right combination of knowledge and finance helps to start a good business. Perhaps the financial part contributes to the economic side to make it a sustainable, development-oriented company. Knowledge and experience, in turn, can bring favorable financial gains. A successful business turns it into tangible material, money. We must know that it will take technological approaches to strengthen the force, which will become routine in the future. Back then, the routine could have been presented as an experiment. He simply justified it and earned himself a place in the minds of professionals.
So I think that no one should be afraid to try, even fail, and be happy when they succeed. Past experience gives us the foundation to embark on the right path in business, and when we have a supporting partner at our side who is equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills, we have a greater chance of success.
The first thing an entrepreneur does after having an idea is to look for information – on Google. The search for clean information takes a long time and rarely leads to the desired result. However, these sources can definitely bring benefits. Educational material is rarely based on Georgian sources. In order to adapt to a foreign language, a thorough study is required.
The scientific community of Europe and many neighboring countries have been able to preserve knowledge in the form of documents for future generations to benefit from. In Georgia, in a more accessible form, it was collected only in the media. Today, these materials are used by small manufacturers, and scaling them requires large, risky investments.
That's what Devi told me, the risk is high, and adopting technology without experience is a silent minefield that has led to many failures on the path to financial development. That is why we have to match technology with local knowledge. Remember, we take risks in our own pockets.
Technology is something invented by human intelligence and later given a commodified form. We started using it from those who had no such idea before. Thanks to him, today I can also build a small mushroom greenhouse, sow mycelium and bring mushroom bags. At this point, you might think that I could invest the time better right away. I trust the advice of an experienced friend the most here. In order for the work begun in the basement to make sense, I will advise. The mushroom grower will show me how to grow mushrooms cleanly and do a good job for many people, which will be more useful than cooking mushrooms just for my own family.
Devi is such a helpful friend. You can easily communicate with him. He replied to my email immediately when I wrote to him. The call was not answered too late. It's no secret that when I spoke to him he was in the noise, he was moving. However, this means that an entrepreneur meets those who want to do a good job and for whom talking is a prerequisite for results.
That's how I found Soko.ge
We will also prepare Georgian mycelium. It could happen very soon that we will have more Georgian products in Georgia than are imported and Georgian entrepreneurs will receive more money from us than Turks, Azerbaijanis, or Eastern Europeans. A work that begins with this desire will definitely lead its creator to the goal. One thing we should know: in this country, Georgian, whatever it may be, and however much it may be, it is ours, it belongs to us and it fits us well.
Agricultural education - a necessary link to success
Here's a little true story: Everything we bring or introduce to the farm, be it technology, culture, breed, or employees, needs its own environment. It's not about buying a cow and putting them in a barn. Housing, feeding, transportation, and veterinary services and staff can be considered as equipment for livestock. That's right, a raspberry needs support, a horse needs a groom, a vine needs pruning, and a hen needs a nest. Additional and ongoing investment is an inherent obligation of agriculture. The farmer has the resources and responsibility to choose correctly what to spend money on, and what future investments to calculate. I understand and it's not an easy task. There is already a need to rely on the work of more experienced people! His Excellency, education comes to agriculture.
“It is important to create a competitive environment for agribusiness today,” Tamar Sanikidze, agricultural systems expert and United Nations Development Program specialist, told me when I asked a few questions about agricultural education. She has been working to improve education in Georgia for a long time. It has published several handbooks, proposed projects to improve subject specialization, developed the educational base of higher education institutions and vocational colleges, and now works with higher education programs to maintain quality stability.
“Today the market no longer needs general agronomy. The private sector has already explicitly explained the labor market - I have an almond orchard, if you know the whole almond orchard, with each segment of the culture, if you understand the issue of planting, harvesting, and export-import of the orchard, the whole value chain, then we need a specialist like that," - she told me.
After talking to her, I understood that the sector itself is taking care of attracting education. Many have understood the importance of quality or multiple verified information. There are companies that want to invest in education. Their specialists rely on science, international experience, and communication with colleagues.
Tinatin Makharadze, the director of the Swiss agricultural school "Kavkasia", talks to me about her experiences during her trip to Switzerland before the opening of the Georgian vocational school.
When I asked what was needed to increase demand for agricultural education, he told me that it was necessary to open farms and add sustainable farms in the country where the focus is on business. In this way, the sector will be strengthened and the demand for quality education will increase of its own accord.
“Educating a new generation of farmers who needs to have all the information they need, from food production to the direct production of primary products, is no easy task. It's not just about getting information. It's a work culture that takes time to change. It takes routine. What you do in our school should be repeated every day to develop this work culture. A farmer who will come to the training for two or three days will definitely receive specific technical information. But, so to speak, there won't be a fundamental, mental change in two or three days," Tinatin told me.
A farming school was built in Dmanis with the help of Swiss colleagues. The educational institution called "Kavkasia" is located near Railway and is one of the first in Georgia with a practical training base. It includes several hundred hectares of land, an agricultural base, a modern cheese factory, and a school campus where 8 students live. Who wants to become a part of Georgian agriculture in the future?
Since October, when I started studying at this school, the most noticeable thing for me is the responsible attitude toward the environment and one's work. The commitment to take care of a living being, a plant, or an animal, creates additional motivation for you to be stronger, mobilized, and firm in your decision. No, studying here is not voluntary. Knowledge is mandatory because here nobody talks about what they will eat tomorrow, there are 50 animals waiting for you on the farm, which need good feed, a well-groomed and clean environment, timely milking, and adaptation to natural conditions because nobody has You asked to bring them to the farm, it was decided by you, the farmer, and you are now obliged to take care of his coexistence, because that's what it's all about, taking care of coexistence with the domesticated.
“When we were working at this school, the Swiss came. They told us that young people who come from farming families usually get this training there. You already know more or less everything on the farm. That means they spent their whole life, their whole childhood on the farm, and then they come and they work and study on the farm for two years. I mean, do you understand what ingrained culture and what knowledge, what information they have in this case? When we decided to partner with farms, they were looking for a farmer who had children and would train them in farming to transfer their work. Such farms are very rare. Farming is a generational business."
The first generation of farming is quite a difficult business, both financially and in terms of time. Development takes time to reach a certain standard and produce results. So generational change is important," Tinatin told me.
Tamar Sanikidze recommended short training for practicing farmers who already have some knowledge or basics. In his experience, the most effective way is to focus on innovative technologies. At this stage, it is only necessary to know the entire value chain of any culture. For her, the future is climate-smart agriculture. The farm must survive the turmoil on the planet, both financially and with sustainability, health, and natural motivation that is expressed by loyalty to it.
Tinatin Makharadze, practice, instinctive knowledge, concern for the correct use of natural resources, effective work, and sustainability, which arise from the unity of these components, are important.
“We try to teach this in our school, that stability is about using existing resources better and sustainability is not lost. In that case, education is a more robust way to get results,” Tinatin told me.
There are several ways to get agricultural education in Georgia. Among them is higher education, which can be obtained at several universities. Vocational education - in what direction do vocational schools, colleges, branches, and educational organizations work in Georgia, including the state "Environmental Information and Education Center", which is a quality leader in this segment and promotes the dissemination of information at the state level.
In the modern world, knowledge can also be acquired through the programs of international associations. Among them, the World Federation of Agro-Journalists and the Association of Agro-Journalists of Georgia work to provide specific knowledge to agro-media journalists. Together we create a solid foundation to secure the future of agriculture in Georgia.
The information on which agriculture in Georgia is based
A farm cannot develop without information. Times change and technologies change. The farmer remains stubborn and in love with his work. He knows what methods he uses and doesn't let anyone into the room where the secrets of farm management and the steps to future success are kept.
The farmer knows very well that the story presented by the government, donor organization, or commercial agent is real, attested, and verified. However, he also takes into account that the knowledge of others may not be useful for his work.
Even today, when I asked this question to several professionals, experts, and friends, they told me that, despite the great demand for advice, the Georgian farmer trusts those around him the most. The neighbor who has built a strawberry greenhouse and earned good money, the supplier of medicines with whom he has established a business relationship … he also largely trusts the state, knows the declared priorities of donor organizations, and reads brochures. The information space was filled with these components and collected in the mass media.
However, time is running out. If 11 years ago the research of the "Mercy Corps Caucasus Alliances Program" showed that the source of information was village gathering places, today the information coordinator of this program, Nona Samkharadze, tells me that there is a demand for agricultural consultations. And daily practical tips are published in local media. Smartphones and online media have changed the way we share information.
The farmer began analyzing the business, counting production, and understanding the approved restrictions. Nestan Mermanishvili, who works on the development of small business owners in the new project “Mercy Corps”, told me that the peasant used to be rude to the state representative: “Why are you asking me this, why are you ordering me this?" Now he is trying to cooperate. He is aware that honey containing antibiotics can no longer be sold in Europe and little by little in this natural process he will find that the bee does not need antibiotics at all.
Irakli Chikava, who founded Agro Solutions Group with his friends, told me that doing business with outdated information and turning it into modern entrepreneurship is a difficult task. This became the main puzzle for the Georgian peasant. Therefore, everyone is involved in the work who can benefit from it and at the same time bring in their own investment. Although the transition of the industrial sphere to modern flatness is a gradual and slow process, movement in this direction has begun.
Researcher Rati Kochlamazashvili, deputy chairman of the farmers' association, says that all information entering the country goes through a strong filter. It reaches the farmer in a subtle way. International donor organizations, international companies, state, and industry experts are all interested in his study. These people are at the forefront of the country's agricultural strategy. They are trying to choose the right ways to create a competitive Georgian farmer.
“In all developed countries, the most popular news programs are agricultural ones. For example, in Great Britain, there is a radio station that broadcasts a program for farmers at 05:00 in the morning. Simple tips are broadcast live and highly rated. Do we have a culture of listening to the radio and reading the newspaper?! We also need advice on television. How many things do we hear every morning?! About face care, dishes... but there are no 5-minute tips for farmers anywhere," Nona Samkharadze told me.
The farmer believes in the state, programs that are regularly announced with strategic goals. For example "Plant the Future", which has existed for 7 years and already covers 15,000 hectares and brings together fruit growers. The co-funding component encouraged the farmer so much that he was willing to wait several years for his garden to bear fruit. Many of them have not yet entered the earning stage, but they brought us closer to entering the sales counter with Georgian products. Georgian production has always been in demand in this country and it still is today. He takes steps to nurture. The goal of the Georgian economy is import substitution. He wants to provide customers with Georgian products.
Every survey and every available research proves that Georgian consumer will buy a competitive Georgian product as soon as he finds quality at a good price. Among the necessary resources for its reception, information is the first.