Study visit of urban youth to the Northern Great Plain

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The first station of the project-organised excursion series was the Northern Great Plain region, where they could get a feel of the personal and professional motivations of the farmers, the procedures and difficulties of husbandry by visiting successful enterprises of the area.

Their first way headed to Újszentmargita – Bödönhát, where they looked for Gergő Madarász, a young entrepreneur at his own farm. The Madarász family lives nowadays in Bödönhát, and all their ancestors were or are connected to agriculture for many generations. They kept domestic animals like cattle, swine and sheep even in the year of 1980, but the parents had their other job beside that, and the children concentrated on school and sports. The concept of the building-ensemble, which forms the current manor-house, their home and the stables, was born in 1995. All these are situated in the Hortobágy National Park in Hajdú-Bihar county and they live in perfect harmony with the natural heritage of the park. The two brothers finished their studies in Gödöllő, the Netherlands, France and the USA. Gergely Madarász, the youngest one in the family is a licensed agricultural engineer. He had started his career at prestigious agricultural companies to get experience, then took over the operative management of the family's business in 2010. Living in the national park makes people respect and engage themselves to the natural environment and the biological diversity. The national park has its written requirements for their activity such as conditions of cultivating the meadow and preserving the landscape. In the matter of European dimensions, they are present in the Natura 2000 network. Their 300 hectares of farming area, especially the great fishing lake of that contributes to enrich the local biodiversity in a significant way. Their animals and the prepared meat's quality and taste of those are also gifts of the family's nature-friendly attitude. They feed the animals with home-grown forage in untouched environment and keep them freely.

However the livestock – even the ancient species – need human care, proper supervision of a vet and protection against predators. However, safety in the matter of fodder has two meanings here. The Madarász manor-house ensures the complete supply of the animals. On the other hand, it means it doesn't contain any chemical contamination and tracking is fast and easy.
The main activity of their enterprise is producing goods from the meat of their own native animals like Hungarian Grey cattle, Mangalica swine and Racka sheep. They use the old, traditional methods for preparing food, so their products are equivalent to the ones of farmhouses, so they are free of any food preservatives (except for salt and smoking). It contains neither artificial colour nor flavour enhancer additives. The two major spices being used are paprika powder and marjoram which are made by Bio-Drog-Berta Kft., one of the most significant organic spice producing companies of the country. Fresh and smoked products of the Madarász family: Mangalica sausage, liver pâté, Bácska sausage, bacon, Mangalica and Hungarian Grey cattle mixed sausage, smoked bacon. Depending on the proportion of orders they even take on deliveries.

Next, the group travelled to Hajdúdorog, to see young farmer Péter Szakál, to watch his dairy farm, which he runs with his parents and brother together. The visitors remarked that they were expecting to see a well-equipped, successfully managed and demanding enterprise in the moment of arrival.
The majority of the livestock are Holstein-Frisian cows, but you may find several Hungarian cattle too. They milk the animals twice a day: in the afternoon and at dawn. The system is set in a 2 x 6 fish-bone arrangement. The milk is then transported by trucks. They could see the following groups of cattle: dairy cows, heifers, springers, pregnant heifers and calves.
The fields supply the animals with forage, while in case of overproduction, they sell the unnecessary part. They grow the alfalfa, wheat and corn in crop-rotation system. In 2011, they had heavy crops, an average of 500 centrers of forage was produced per hectare. They had an average 100 centrers of corn grain per hectare, and they don't have any reasons to complain about the alfalfa. The amount of wheat ended up a bit lower, but the quality compensated it. They keep experimenting continually. This year the farmer sowed four types of corn next to each other, so thus he has been able to observe different fertilizer-reactions, with which he prepares the plans for next year.

The journey's next stop was the farm of Balázs Dobi, who also runs the business with his whole family together.
The siblings do all the physical part of the work on the fields and in the plant too. They don't have any employees, so they try to replace the lack of them with machines. They utilize bigger machines to make them efficient and to finish every procedure in ideal time. They cultivate on 160 hectares of soil, which belongs almost entirely to them, and they don't serve for wage. Lease-work – according to Balázs Dobi – is always problematic, cause it has to be finished first, but pays last, so they rather don't even bother with it. They breed classical plants: wheat, corn, sunflower and peas. Last year's growth was quite satisfactory, which they could sow, but notice, that 30 hectares of 160 was covered by water. “We consider ourselves lucky to handle our own produce, as we are not obliged to sell it right after the cutting. We keep it stored till our fund lasts, while we look for the best moment to sell it when it's more expensive.” Even each member of the family has got at least one degree, they often spend 14 to 16 hours in the machines. “The urban man can only see us driving land rover, and assumes that we have luxury life. However they don't see behind the scenes, that we have to get up early and go to bed late to have everything done.”

The next destination was the farmland of András Molnár, who mainly deals with corn and peas. His mobile irrigation system uses the water from the canal next door. Unfortunately, he had to pay huge amounts of money to build up the security system, to have the things out of concrete remain in his property. Unluckily, other farms of the area had the same kind of problems.
The last visited place was in Újtikos. Péter Nagy presented the farm of his family, where more than 600 sheep were kept, and the fields which fulfilled their needs were cultivated. The young man talked about the difficulties of export, the fluctuation of the market, struggling with administration and the low income of sheep-breeding nowadays. Fortunately they can hire their employees in winter too, so beside themselves, they support three people and the families of those with a workplace.
At this time, one of the tools of development is the support given after the cultivated soil and the agro-environmental programme. The latter one lasts for two more years from now, because they have just won in the programme. Despite the difficulties, Péter Nagy and his family keep on farming, cause they find that the shepherd society – just like other sectors of agriculture – is getting old in vast steps.

At the end, the participants of the trip found that they had gained more they had expected. They visited the people who ran the business, not only the farms themselves. They could catch a glimpse of these people's thinking and feel their responsibility for a while.