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« Serbian Wisdom The Billboard Way | Main | Images Of Serbia »

Serbian Farm Life

Ujna's neighbor stopped to pose for usElla eating a pig's earSquirtguns and boys need no translationBob wishes he'd be back when the blackberries are ripeThe neighbor's still -- Good rakija!I grew up in a small Illinois farming town, the dentist's son. My knowledge of farming is limited to what I picked up by simply living near it. So near as a matter of fact that my backyard butted up against a corn field -- or clover or wheat, whatever was planted that season, but I fondly remember it as the corn field. Running up and down the rows and hiding was a favorite pastime when it grew taller than I was. I also remember all of the huge and very expensive farm implements around town. I'd overhear debates over whether John Deer or Massey Ferguson was the better tractor or combine or whatever it was the farm boys where discussing. Farm life toughened the farm kids up a lot faster than most of us town kids. They weren't the boys (or girls) you'd want to arm wrestle. So, when I say that life on a farm in Serbia isn't easy, I mean it in a whole different way than life on an Illinois farm isn't easy. The relatively small family owned Serbian farms we've seen don't have the economy of scale that's found in America's corn fields, family owned or industrial -- and no government is subsidizing anything! The sight of a widow dressed in black from headscarf to toe isn't an unusual one as we pass through the villages.

Darinka's family farm is headed by her aunt, whom everyone in the village calls Ujna, which means aunt in Serbian.  She has lived there since she was married at the age of 13, and she now does what she can since her husband died recently. The farm is a Garden of Eden! Gooseberries, currants, pears, plums, apples, strawberries, raspberries, mulberries, blackberries and grapes are everywhere. That's just the berry family. Then there's the garden: beans, carrots, onions, peppers, tomatoes, squash, corn. In the fields grow clover, corn, wheat, alfalfa... The soil is so incredibly fertile, I'm convinced that anywhere I've dropped a pear core or spit a fruit seed, next year a tree will spring up. Ujna is down to one cow now. When the house was full of three generations of families, there were more than a dozen cows I'm told. There are still pigs and chickens and goats, as well as a multitude of cats. It's a beautiful place, and it has the wonderful feel of land well tended for generations. Three people live there now -- Ujna her daughter-in-law Julija and her four year old grandson, Ilija. There's no way they can harvest all of the abundance that's just in the home garden. Much of the land has been loaned out to neighbors to farm. Julija, tells us that many people need to subsidize their farm work with other jobs or businesses -- the farms are mostly for food. The money comes from somewhere else. Sometimes a family member, often the fathers, will work in other countries and return home for a month at a time.


In spite of this, the generosity we've seen has been amazing. Lavish lunches have been prepared each time we visit. When you enter a home as a guest coffee is made, cake is brought out, and rakia (fruit brandy) is poured -- no matter what time of day. It seems everyone has a copper still or at least knows someone who has a still and puts all the excess fruit to very good use making very good brandy.


For all of the apparent differences, many of the concerns are the same as on a US farm. Some of the young people leave the farm to go into other professions, and I imagine Serb farmers have their debates over which is the better tractor or combine. Yesterday, we met a passionate farmer named Goran. He was one of a small number of farmers chosen from across Serbia to attend a global farming summit in the US last year. He's smart and forward-thinking and industrious, and quite a successful farmer. He says that Serbian farming will have to change to survive. He's got ideas and he's created a coalition of sorts. We all need more people like Goran.

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Reader Comments (14)

Fascinating post, Bob. I really enjoyed how you contrasted your own farm knowledge in the U.S. with Serbian farming. The pictures were fabulous. Good thing none of you are vegetarian!

I leave for London in the morning. I'll be gone for five weeks. I bet when i come back there will be a whole lot more posts.

The blog is just great! Thank you guys for doing it. xo Catt

Jul 8, 2009 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterCat

This blogs are just so interesting!!! I can't wait to see the next ones to come.

Jul 8, 2009 at 7:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterPamela Sinn Hargan

That's what I'm talking about! BrillIant post, Redpaths.
Tell Ella it is better to eat the pig's ear than to try to make a silk purse from it...
Continued big love coming your way.
Peace, wh

Jul 8, 2009 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered Commenternoho1960

Thanks again for another wonderful post!

Jul 8, 2009 at 7:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterCliff Ravenscraft

Dear Bob and family,

What incredible pictures and fascinating narration you have been posting on your site! And to think that you have just began your journey of a lifetime! Thanks for sharing with everyone your amazing and interesting adventure. I always smile when I see a new posting in my inbox and wonder what I'm about to read and learn. Be safe and take care of yourself and your family.


Jul 8, 2009 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterB.P. Recordist WB

WOW, I loved reading will have to publish this when you return back to the already have a terrific title....God Speed in your adventure...I'm keeping you in my prayers....Thanks for posting...I'm enjoying the ride LOL

Bev Harriman Lewis

Jul 8, 2009 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterBev Lewis

I love your post :) reminds me much about great farming back at there was also a blogger at baraaza. He explained about tips on keeping a good farming at his place and I actually forgot the place. Anyhow, baraaza though is a travel guide and that farmer back there was a traveling owner of his farm :) are you a traveler too btw?

you can refer to

Jul 9, 2009 at 3:36 AM | Unregistered Commentershobe

Really enjoying all your posts and the great pictures.

Jul 9, 2009 at 6:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterIrvin

Any morning that starts with one of your blog posts is a good morning!

Jul 9, 2009 at 7:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterRosalind

Beautiful country........what wonderful people. Travis and I were laughing about Ella eating the pig ear, the child is fearless, will try anything. You go Ella!!!!
We are all really made of the same stardust, have the same concerns,some of the same problems and the same loves. The more you travel and the more people you meet will prove this. How gracious these people are, Ella and Owen are so very bless to experience all thiswhile they are so young. They will always know that people are mostly all over the world.If more world leaders would realize this there would be beace ieverywhere. You should consider yourselves embasidors of peace.
Much love...................MOM

Jul 10, 2009 at 5:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterMom / Nana June

Bob I agree with Bev..You have an incredialbe way of Shareing you thoughts.. maybe a book is in the works. Serbia looks wonderfull . I look forward to the next post....


Jul 10, 2009 at 7:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie AC

So interesting ...
With the President visiting Ghana today, the media (NPR, Specifically) has been focusing on small, family based farming, and it's place in stabilizing economies. It is more good than I can say to read your posts. Thank you for your generosity in sharing with all of us.

Jul 10, 2009 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterYo Lama

Hey Bob,
Just finally got caught up on reading all the blogs...Great stuff. Enjoy it all.

Jul 14, 2009 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRay Spiess

OK - This Seals it for me. I am Quitting My job and coming to join you tomorrow! What the HECK are we all doing here?!?!? SO JEALOUS!!! This is my favorite post - I LOVE The food and the farm and the kids and the WHOLE Sha-Bam! This is just too wonderful. I LOVE that you guys are on the absolute journey of a lifetime! Here's to your bravery, wisdom, and to YOU! You give us americans a good name! Love you all! Tell Ella - she is awesome for being a True Foodie already - at age 7! : )

Jul 16, 2009 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterCCTriumph: The Sis From GA

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