Although the event that triggered the beginning of our journey occurred on 16th April, 2017, unknown to us the actual journey started way back in 2008, when Maria and I relocated back to Cyprus; something that we had planned to do over a number of years.
Cyprus, is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean, close to Turkey, Lebanon and Israel.
Early February, we arrived from South Africa. Home was now on a small plot of land, on the outskirts of Parekklisia, a village close to Limassol. We had chosen this for a number of reasons. Its peaceful location, proximity to Limassol, ideal size to grow vegetables, and fruit trees, and olive trees to produce our own olives and olive oil.
Over the years our love for growing vegetables and flowers grew. We wanted to do this by producing our own compost, and by not using pesticides. We searched the internet particularly Pinterest for natural pesticides, and also spent hours picking caterpillars off our brassica leaves and then feeding them to the chickens . We also adopted the companion planting philosophy. We produced a number of different vegetables with varying degrees of success.
Photo Left: Our olive tree, several 100 years old – we planted several more and now are self-sustainable in olive oil and table olives. Photo below, off to the Olive Mill.
We soon realised that our main struggle was with nature. We were growing in an area that had temperatures that vary immensely during the year. Our summers were hot and often reached temperatures in the high 30'C and low 40'C; even the nights were hot. Added to this, was the low rainfall (less than 110 cm in winter ), and normally none in summer, (8 months of the year). We had no water well, and despite the fact that we recycled all the household water and collected rainwater in winter, we depended on the generosity of a neighbour Paniko, for water. To make things worse when the Coptic winds blew, it brought with them desert sands which covered all the plants and trees.
Despite the fact that we often seemed to be losing our battle with the scarcity of water and the harsh conditions, the successes were extremely gratifying; particularly, the ability to pick your own home grown vegetables and enjoy them within an hour of harvest.
In recent years we heard of and visited an aquaponic vegetable garden in the neighboring village. Various vegetables were being grown in ponds of water being fed from a nearby tank of fish. This seemed to be the answer. This concept was stored at the back of our minds.
The Eureka moment happened in the early hours of 16th April, 2017. I often wake up an hour before sunrise at which time I would water on different day’s parts of the garden. On that day I was reading the news headlines on my mobile phone. I often receive news feeds every day from The Guardian. I normally read the political headlines, but on that moment no article interested me so I scrolled to the sports section, again nothing. I kept scrolling down until an article caught my eye. I opened and started to read the article titled: Click the link -
"Is Boston the next urban farming paradise?"
I read the article, then again. The next few weeks I googled Freight Farms, hydroponics, vertical and horizontal farming; microgreens. I read numerous articles watched many youtube videos. I read and watched videos by other companies but I kept going back to Freight Farms.
On my return to Cyprus in 2008, I had taken the decision to work at least until my 70th birthday. Longer if I was still making a contribution to my firm and the people around me. So this had to be put on the back burner, and to concentrate on winning or at least making the best of the harsh conditions. But this did not stop me living and dreaming that this is what I wanted to do. Little did I know that fate has a way of making things happen.
At the beginning of the year, Maria and I were discussing our future. Maria is a stay at home taking care of our elderly mothers and as a result was not contributing to the state social insurance and on retirement would not receive a state pension. We thought of different ways she could register as a self-employed person and generate a sufficient income to make a contribution. This was time to bring up hydroponics and container farming. My enthusiasm soon rubbed off on Maria, and our daughter, Myrianthi, who was visiting.
Our journey continues.