From the Parliament to the Backcountry

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A nice and smiling young lady is enthusiastically telling the story of the week she spent on Gábor Pál's homestead in Balmazújváros during the Rural Adventure Programme. Who would think that she is a member of the Parliament, who is – being aware that she has been elected to Parliament from the list of Hajdú-Bihar county – eager to grab each and every opportunity to learn about the daily life of those who voted for her.

Mónika Bartos, an environmental economist, undertook the programme without the slightest hint of prejudice or fear. She says she has always been admiring the life of those who are living in a “tanya” (traditional Hungarian homestead) and the knowledge that they have accumulated through work, because that knowledge is based on sheer experience which is useful in practice and always adapts to the phenomena of nature.

Six hundred sheep are being looked after on the farm where Mónika shared the daily tasks of the workers: she woke at half past four in the morning, and after milking the sheep, she completed the household duties. She assisted in feeding, and even took up tasks such as vaccinating little lambs without any repugnance when wetter and cooler weather made it necessary.  In addition, she gave tractor driving a try and even transported haystack and logs for a fence with the machine without any hardship. She took pleasure in all the tasks and enjoyed the opportunity to meet nice people and to dare herself to vaccinate animals.  "However, it wasn't easy to get into the swing of things", she says. "For example, despite several attempts, I didn't manage to drain a few decilitres of milk by hand until the day before the last, although I usually picked things up quickly and started handling animals with more and more confidence. Beside Gábor, Aunt Kati and Uncle Mihály were my teachers, who were living on the farm, and told me numerous stories."

She visited neighbouring homesteads whenever she had a chance between the morning and evening milkings and feedings, and she also visited Gábor Pál's goose farm, observed chicken hatcheries and greenhouse vegetable gardens. She also took part in a delightful family programme with the landlord and his family when they baked goose and prepared 'lángos', a type of fried bread, in the open air. "I managed to build a good relationship with my hosts, we accepted each other quickly and we still keep in touch."

Mónika took on the programme with an open heart and enthusiasm. She came to learn and to ask questions, she wanted to take a deep look into the lives of rural people, to experience their hard work and to learn about the local way of thinking. In her opinion, it is vital for agriculture that the laws should not be developed in offices, since truly practical decisions can only be reached with the involvement of those who are affected by them in their everyday lives. "I hold respect for the people who live the kind of life I experienced here. They have a hard job with lots of restrictions. City dwellers seldom visit places where food comes from. This work is not only demanding a lot of endurance and patience, but it also draws our attention to the most important things in life", emphasized Mónika Bartos.

Since she has always maintained a close relationship with nature (she was a member of the research team studying the effects of the cyanide pollution in the Tisza River and she was the organizer of the “Gazdafórum” - a Forum of Rural Landowners), she would like to continue to support this field with her work. "I am a member of the Hungaricum Working Group and I would like to take on an active role in developing the 'tanya law'", she revealed her future plans.  In her view, the experiences she gained through the programme have become an important part of her life and she would enjoy visiting the farm in the future if she has a chance to do so.

Zsófia Papp