Farming in The Mediterranean – CYA Students Volunteer at Petra Farm, Paros.
CYA Fall 2021 Students Brady Sabolik and Faith Gronda spent a 10-day Fall Break volunteering at Petra Farm, located on the island of Paros. This is the first time this opportunity has been available for CYA students, and it was described by both as a fully-immersive and deeply meaningful experience! The students lived with a Greek family with room and board paid by the host, and worked on the farm daily.
Petra Farm is a 25 acre, organic farm which grows various crops suited for the Mediterranean climate: olives, capers, grapes, cherries, pomegranates and a selection of various herbs and spices. The farm also has animals such as: goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, turkey, and two puppies! The students’ host, Alkis Downward, is an experienced farmer, with a Degree from the agricultural university in Chania and a 6-year farming experience within the micro-climate of Paros.
“Alkis is an incredibly knowledgeable person when it comes to farming. He and his wife made us feel at home with their warm hospitality and humble self-giving of opening their estate up to us. It was a blast getting to know Alkis and his family and learning more about farming from one of the best.” says Brady.
For Fall semester volunteers, the visit occurs at a time of the year when most of the harvesting has been completed, therefore many of the tasks involve preparing for the next growing season.
Brady and Faith’s duties were: crop nutrition, weed management and animal care. They describe the overall work as labor intensive, dirty, and sometimes stinky, however extremely rewarding. Physical strength and love of animals are required!
Here are Faith’s and Brady’s impressions as described by them upon their return to Athens:
“This was my favorite experience while studying abroad in Athens. I could not have imagined a better 10-day break. I absolutely love farming and this was finally an opportunity to do what I love in an entirely different setting than what I’m used to. I truly felt like part of the family by the end of it. Alkis and Jana did everything possible to make us feel comfortable and at home. I have no doubt that the friendships we created will last many years. Getting to work on the land of this incredibly beautiful island was such an incredible opportunity and I thought about how lucky I was just about every second I was there. Alkis and his family are absolutely incredible and we truly owe them so much for making this experience what it was.”
Faith Gronda, CYA Fall ‘21
“It was so much fun being able to learn more about farming from Alkis including crop nutritional needs, soil preservation techniques, and weed management strategies. I have not had an experience in a long time (since the beginning of college) in which I could talk about the specifics of farming with someone, and it was so refreshing to be able to stretch my mind in the field I love. Alkis was so kind and easy to be around, and he truly made the experience more than amazing. I hope to be back on the farm in the future to help him out and see where things have gone. A HUGE thank you to Alkis and his family!”
Brady Smith, CYA Fall ‘21