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A Greek organic odyssey

A Greek organic odyssey

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Travel with photographer Mary Canning as she embarks on a big fat Greek farm tour of the stunning island of Lipsi.

On a tiny Greek island, not far from the Turkish coast, an American Greek, Kostas Makris, is undertaking a new way of life which is infused with the traditional farming methods of his forefathers.

Caught up in the economic crisis in the US, Kostas returned to the island of Lipsi where he was born and grew up, intending to take a long break and take stock of his future. His family had owned land on Lipsi for 250 years and his father, Dimitris, had run a small vineyard for many years. Kostas was inspired by his surroundings to begin a new venture, an organic farm where people could come to learn about organics, sustainability and traditional Greek life. Lipsi is remote and not easy to get to but in the past few years hundreds of people from all over the world (including Australia and New Zealand) have travelled to the farm to work and study. Aged between 16 and 65, WWOOFERS and students of horticulture, religious studies and animal science receive school credits towards their degrees, for time spent at the farm. 

Lipsi is not a verdant island, its mountains are bare and rock strewn and the soil is not rich. Water has to be brought in by tankers in the summer months. Yet by using organic principals Kostas manages a farm which is 100% sustainable throughout much of the year. He grows citrus, pears, nectarines, plums and figs. .There are mustard greens, wild mushrooms, garlic, onions, potatoes , tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, canteloupe, capsicums, eggplants and zucchinis. Herbs grow in profusion and sheep and goats are raised for their meat. Bamboo is grown to construct shelters and stakes. There are over 2500 grape vines and an olive grove of kalamatas . A donkey is kept both for its manure and its lawnmowing. The farm has its own well which supplies much of its water needs and pesticides have not been used at all on the land for many decades. Kostas is constantly researching the latest organic methodologies but also learnt much from his father about farming and has found the local farmers to be invaluable sources of information.

Cheese, wine, olive oil and balsamic vinegar are all made from produce grown on the farm and are sold to tourists and restaurants on the island and on other nearby islands.

Kostas is a man of vision. He has permission to build an eco village on another site on the island, with houses built in the traditional manner and using Lipsi craftspeople and products. At a time of some difficulty for the island, affected by the national economic crisis, Kostas’s venture is proving to be of profound personal benefit as well as a major benefit to the people of his island.