Farming between tradition and modern challenges in Turkey
For İhsan modern farming means: using the experiences from the past together with all options of the present to get higher yields that are profitable.
Europe is home to approximately 11.500 different plant species. 11.000 of them can be found in Turkey. No wonder that 25 percent of Turkey’s total workforce is active in farming. One of them is İhsan Süleyman Gençoğlu – who grows sunflower, wheat, oilseed rape, water melon and pumpkins on 250 ha of land. I met İhsan during a visit in Turkey on his farm. The short-haired man has an optimistic look on his face and welcomes me and my Turkish colleagues Cevdet Ergün and Aysegul Uludağ friendly. He takes us to the mayor’s office of the village – called Kurfallı, just across the street from his house.
While we sit together in the office İhsan starts to tell us about his farm: “Farming has always been in my family, even in my grand-grand-grand-grandfathers’ time.” Talk about having a heritage in farming. Sadly, though, he lost his father when he was 18. Then he had to make a decision – to go to the university or continue his father’s farm. “I got the impression that the decision was difficult but never in doubt. I didn’t want my mother to be alone with the farm. So I took over the responsibility.” Today he is glad about this choice and wouldn’t do it any differently.
One thing that helped him, was what he learned from his family. “I grew up with farming, I learned everything from my father,” İhsan explains. For example, when he was 10, he started to join his father on the tractor or watched him mixing the fertilizer applications. “In most cases we rely on the experience of the older ones. That’s the best way to learn it.” But handed-down knowledge isn’t everything. İhsan has also learned how to adapt his business to the changing times.
"Today we are doing the same things – maybe a little bit more modern,” İhsan adds. For him modern farming means: using the experiences from the past together with all options of the present to get higher yields that are profitable. “When, for example, a seed company wants to do field trials for sunflowers, they can just come to me right away. I’m ready,” İhsan smiles. He is open to new technologies. This mixture of tradition and openness to innovations seems to make him confident about the future. “I’m not pessimistic, I’m optimistic. As long as professional farming exists, the yields will be profitable for me.”
But still, farming in Turkey is much like it is in the rest of the world. Input costs are rising and the younger generation is moving to the big cities. İhsan explains, “The number of young people who are willing to start as a farmer is very low in Turkey.” He isn’t even sure if his own sons would like to continue the family farm. “The younger one is more interested in farming at the moment, but once they go somewhere else for studying, it will be difficult for them to come back to the village and do farming. I want my sons to do a professional occupation, but it would be nice if they could be involved just a little bit into farming.” İhsan concludes with a hint for a possible solution to the decline of farmers. “Maybe we need more modern farms to make the business more attractive.”