Daniel Cismas: While on a quest to find purpose and identity for ourselves, we decided to become farmers and work the land.
Since 2009, Daniel Cismas has been managing, together with his wife Tincuta, the Topa organic farm in The Saxon Villages Area of southern Transylvania. The land belongs to the Foundation for Cultures and Ecology, and the Cismas family manages it as a family farm.
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, to make jam and tea. 25 % of their income comes from a rose jam.
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, yoghurt), 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 they use 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 primary 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.
A great challenge for the farm is maintaining the agro-biodiversity by conserving and planting the indigenous varieties, especially vegetables. To achieve this goal, they preserve the seeds from 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.
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 helps define our identity and belonging to a certain cultural space and provides sustainable development alternatives in a world with an increasing disequilibrium.
Biodiversity preservation is even more important today. At a European level, farmers are witnessing the disappearance of butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. In nature, equilibrium is vital. If these equilibriums are lost, it will be a global problem.
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 land-grabbing 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 to help them.