“To me, farming means freedom”
Newbie Award 2021 winner Tilen Soklič
When Tilen dreamt about cultivating asparagus as a farmer in a little alpine village, his classmates teased him about it. Today, ten years later, Tilen’s Pr’Andreco farm in the little Slovenian village of Krnica, is growing asparagus, different types of vegetables and currants, granting Tilen the Newbie Award for his new approach to farming. This is his story.
Tilen and his wife Ana live in the alpine village of Krnica and run the Pr’Andreco farm there. The name, meaning “at Andrew’s” in Slovenian, is an homage to Tilen’s great-grandfather who, like his grandfather and father, was named Andrej.
How it started
“I am a gardener by education and started my career as such at a local infrastructure company, investing my free time and paychecks in farming”, Tilen says. Step by step, he built his farming dream until that part of his life had become so important, it was time to make a decision: “I had to decide whether to quit my job to focus on farming, or keep it and continue farming as a side hustle.” In February 2021, Tilen quit his job and decided to try and live from his passion.
“I do not regret my decision at all! Fortunately, I did not have to do this on my own: my parents, my wife, my sisters, my aunts and my friends all help me a lot with the work on the farm since our main produce, asparagus and currants, require a lot of manual labour. Their help is what makes this farm grow faster, and I would not be where I am today without their support.”
Neither Tilen or his parents, a retired accountant and bus driver, grew up on a farm. “For my parents’ generation, it was normal to have pigs, hens and maybe a cow at home, though. This enabled the whole family to survive. Lands, however, was usually owned by either bigger farms or the community”, Tilen, who has dreamed of becoming a farmer since he was a child, explains. And so one day, while he was already attending gardening school, Tilen and his dad went to buy a tractor. And that’s how it all started.
“My dad retired, and soon after our family’s first tractor arrived and we discussed renting land for growing early potatoes. I became curious about asparagus after a discussion with my classmates, though, and decided to grow those instead of potatoes. One of my classmates started teasing me about it, saying those would never grow in my area – where the climate is relatively cold – and so I bought asparagus seeds the same week.” Soon after, Tilen’s friends helped him plant the seeds in multi plates. That was 12 years ago.
“We moved to a permanent land which we rented the next year and, in time, started to rent more land”, Tilen says. Land is hard to come by in his area, but gradually the farm grew, and vegetables such as carrots, garlic, onions and lettuce were added to the crops.
The farm sells the majority of its products as well as gifts at the farmers market in the nearby town of Bled. The calmer winters are for baking bread following the traditional method: “in a built-in bread oven using spruce wood”.
Back to the roots
Since a few years, the farm reconnected to a local tradition: “in the autumn of 2016, we planted 600 bushes of black and red currant. Currants grow well in cold areas and were a main farm culture in our village from the 60s until the 80s, when diseases and foreign blackcurrant imports at lower prices caused the farmers here to stop cultivating them”, Tilen explains.
In the old days, farmers sold their currants without any processing. “That would be impossible now”, Tilen says. “You have to process it into different products if you want to sell. We use our currants to make jams, juices, syrups and liquor. One very particular product is our blackcurrant fruit wine: we are the only farm in Slovenia to make this! Last year, we started producing bubbly fruit wine, Charmat method, offering yet another product that is unique to our farm.”
Tilen’s blackcurrant fruit wine was what enabled him to enroll in the Innovative Young Farmer of Slovenia project in 2019. Two years later, he won the Newbie Award in Slovenia: an award that recognises new and innovative approaches to farming.
At Pr’Andreco farm, innovation and tradition go hand in hand: “I named all of my currant products after family members: my wife, my mom, my dad, my grandparents, nephews and niece, sisters,… Our logo is a falcon, referring to the meaning of my family name and the spread wings of a falcon represent the freedom farming is giving me”, Tilen concludes.
“Farming is what helped me change my dreams into reality and what allows me to be creative. To me, it is freedom. That’s why our farm’s tagline is ‘Freedom is to live your dreams’”.
About Pr’Andreco farm
Tilen farms entirely on rented land. The total size of the land is now 3.5 ha, with 0.5 ha of asparagus, 0.5 ha for 880 bushes of red, black and white currants, 0.5 ha for vegetables and 0.3 ha of orchard. The rest of the land is grassland on hillsides.
Pr’Andreco farm is too small for any kind of European grants or funding. Tilen does get a – modest – annual general funding from the Slovenian government for his rented land, based on the size.
More information about Pr’Andreco farm: https://www.facebook.com/Kmetija-Pr-Andreco-276204699998639/