Keeping the Greek Rural Areas Alive through Strengthening the Agricultural Sector

The agri-food sector (agriculture and food) is a particularly important pillar of the Greek economy and is the second largest employer. It actively contributes to the country's international trade, boasting Greece's most dynamic export products, including vegetables, olive oil, processed fruits, and dairy products.

The agricultural sector employs approximately 12% of the country's workforce, a figure practically doubles the EU average of around 6%. It is evident that it plays a crucial role in supporting the economy and social cohesion of the Greek periphery.

While there are high-quality Greek products that are exported around the world offering high added value to the Greek economy, it is a fact that Greece's agricultural sector faces significant challenges and threats. The fragmentation of arable land, the small size of many production units and competition from third countries that either produce products with economies of scale or have greater marketing resources are putting considerable pressure on Greek production.

Another factor negatively affecting the Greek agri-food sector is the low percentage of training and education among the country's farmers and livestock breeders. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the agricultural community simply follows traditional practices without "opening" their eyes to the opportunities provided by technology and modern production practices. The climate crisis further complicates the adaptation of workers in the sector and makes it even more imperative to adopt new practices and technologies in agricultural production.

The Greek Orthodox church is deeply connected to the land and the countryside. Parishes in remote communities provide spiritual support to farmers and they support social activity in small villages. The church plays a crucial role in keeping rural Greece alive. While we should not overlook the monasteries with their fields and monks who produce quality products that contribute to the development of the regions in which they are located.

It is worth mentioning, however, that despite the problems and threats, there are initiatives attempting to change the situation in Greek agriculture and upgrade its operation and production methods.

One organization that has made significant contributions to the modernization of Greek agricultural production is Nea Georgia Nea Genia (New Agriculture New Generation). The organization started its operations in 2018 with an initiative and donation from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) as part of the Rebooting and Empowering Youth program and evolved into a non-profit organization in 2020 with SNF as its founding donor, maintaining close collaboration with Rutgers University as a strategic and technical advisor.

The work of New Agriculture New Generation is truly remarkable, as it has trained thousands of land and food professionals to produce more efficiently. It has also created significant entrepreneurship development infrastructures in the sector, thereby contributing to the improvement of the country's export efforts. Notably, among the organization's many actions, is the tremendous support given to beekeeping, helping maintain and develop Greek bee colonies with endemic species.

This organization seeks to bring the Greek diaspora closer to the agricultural community of Greece. In this way, diaspora members can practically support their homeland and the general welfare of the Greek countryside.

In this context, New Agriculture New Generation has reached out to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to publicize its work to the Greek American community. (You can learn more here: https://www.generationag.org/)

It is a fact that the challenges for Greek agri-food remain enormous, and efforts like those made by New Agriculture New Generation need to be further supported in order to create the conditions for a new ecological and productive ecosystem.

Photo: New Agriculture New Generation.

What's New on GOARCH?
From the Archdiocese