Daniel Cismas

Daniel Cismas: While on a quest to find purpose and identity for ourselves, we decided to become farmers and work the land.

Daniel Cismas is managing, since 2009, together with his wife Tincuta, the Topa organic farm, located in The Saxon Villages Area of southern Transylvania. The land belongs to the Foundation for Cultures and Ecology and the Cismas family is managing it as a family farm.

I’m trying by all means and through all the farming activities to maintain the rich biodiversity of our land, the soil quality, and the natural resources

Daniel Cismas - Farmer, activist at Ferma Ecologica Topa (Topa Organic Farm), part of the Natura 2000 protected areas network (credits: https://resiliencefoodstories.com/story/hnv-transylvania/)

We understood that the connection we had with our ancestors must and can only be restored if we apply it in our everyday activity the traditional ways of working the land and taking care of the animals, while respecting and considering the environment we live in.

Daniel & Tincuta view organic farming as a necessity. It is the way to produce healthy food and it protects soil quality. 

Ferma Ecologica Topa is a family affair, managing 40 hectares of certified land, a well-kept balance between grasslands, gardens and arable land, growing not only grains, fruit and vegetables, but also producing fodder for the dairy cows, pigs, chickens and other small animals they raise here.

The family also cultivates one hectare of Damask roses, renowned for their fine fragrance, in order to make jam and tea. 25 % of their incomes comes from rose jam.

Basket with the farm's products: jams, preserves, cheeses, dried herbs

Working with healthy and traditional recipes, the farm produces and sells, mostly directly from the farm to the consumer, a wide variety of products such as: dairy products (semi-hard and fresh cheeses, simple or with garden herbs, milk, sour cream, yogurt), vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, garlic etc.), dried plants for teas and various preserves (jams, syrups, pickles and vegetable spreads).

The family cooperates with other organic producers like beekeepers from the village of Topa. Thus, an integrated business model, based on simple, yet effective principles.

From the very first day, the Cismas family’s main objective was to keep and enhance the land’s diversity, adapting traditional farming practices, and keeping the land in small parcels of a few hectares each.

One of their main methods of maintaining the rich biodiversity is to keep the rotational grazing as seasonal as possible and only do so on some small dedicated parcels. 

Grazing parcels and the ones destined to be used as hay meadows are located on the slopes of the hills, while arable fields are in flatter areas near the right Tarnava Mare river bank.

Lettuce, spring onions and other vegetables growing in the garden

As for the conservation practices carried on these parcels besides the rotational grazing, we also rely on the application of manure as a natural fertilizer and mowing only after specific dates, as to allow for the plant seeds to develop and spread.

A great challenge, for the farm, is to maintain the agro-biodiversity by conserving and planting the indigenous varieties, especially vegetables. In order to achieve this goal, they preserve the seeds for one year to the next. These seeds have been created together with like-minded people and Ecoruralis. Ecoruralis is a national traditional seed conservation and distribution network with the support of certified and traditional rural farmers.

Peppers and rosehip, photo by Bob Gibons, for Fundatia ADEPT Transilvania

The key to continue this land conservation process is to involve the younger generations in specific activities, and that is the reason why we set up protocols with the local schools in our area. The children are able to come and visit the farm, learn more about our activities and the principles of organic farming and its practices, the importance of their food choices and the role they hold as consumers in shaping and sustaining one type of agriculture or the other.

Without this type of engagement of children and young people, sustainable land conservation becomes an impossible mission.

The preservation of biodiversity is not at all a sort of regression or damnation to poverty, but quite the opposite! It actually helps define our identity, the belonging to a certain cultural space, but also provides sustainable development alternatives, in a world with an increasing disequilibrium.

Biodiversity preservation is even more important today. At an European level, farmers are witnessing the disappearance of the butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. In nature, equilibrium is vital. If these equilibriums will be lost, it will be a global problem.

If I have to give a useful advice, I would tell people to always mind their actions, as farmers, people living in the rural areas, or just as plain beneficiaries of the agro-products, to better define their priorities, on the short and long term, and to have a full comprehension of the terms and words they come across, as so not to become confused and act on a wrong information

Dan has been co-president of Eco Ruralis, the national association for small-scale organic and traditional farmers, and he’s doing all he can to prevent landgrabbing in Romania.

The family receives extra subsidies for organic farming. They also have volunteers from many countries who stay at their farm for some months in order to help them.

The farms’ motto is “Determination and Love”

Marigold drying in the solar drier, to be used for herbal tea mix

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