On our visit to Prlekija, we stopped at the ecological farm Topolovec, where the owners Marijana and Alojz Topolovec invited us into the world of ancient cereal. It is in the middle of the village of Veržej where about 10 years ago they started with the milling activity, and have been doing it ever since.
by Sonja Bezjak
Prlekija, the land of fertile fields
Prlekija is the northeast region of Slovenia; it is a land of vineyards and growing hill sand fertile fields. Two large Slovenian rivers mark the region: Mura and Drava.
In particular, the Mura River has somewhat a mystical connotation among the locals and is most often associated with mills, ships and past lives, which was overtaken by the modernization.
Life flows …
In between the fertile fields life flows in touch with the seasons. Its rhythm provides most of the seasonal work and, of course, the holidays, which interrupt workdays and traditionally maintain a link with the past.
It is in the middle of the village of Veržej where about 10 years ago Marijana and Alojz Topolovec started with its milling activity.
Alojz is an agronomist and for many years he has worked for the plant protection industry. They were trying to make the best use of the wide and fertile fields with chemical means, while the health of the soil, water, animals and people has been largely forgotten (ignored).
“We care what kind of world we leave behind”
Today, also in Slovenia we have areas which because of improper conduct of the large agricultural producers are damaged. There is also no drinking water.
Alojz has monitored this from very close. Since at home they had a farm and because he loves the land and its soil, after consideration he decided to take a different- own way. Therefore, with his wife Marijana they started with eco-farming.
Despite the modernization, or precisely because of it, more and more people are aware of the importance of clean, unspoiled nature and healthy, organic food.
In a relaxed chat they thread the reasons for their decision: they wanted to produce healthy food, to preserve and protect the environment, maintain soil fertility and biodiversity. “We care what we leave to our descendants“, they both conclude the thought.
Therefore, on their fields they brought back old varieties of cereals: spelled wheat, kamut (Khorasan wheat), rye, wheat, buckwheat, millet and maize. And they faced with the new challenges.
Next step – own mill
This in the ecological sense still developing environment was creating and following their own way. From the selection of the seeds, husking, cleaning to storage and sales. A lot of work for the family; but in the ecologically not so developed environment work which is not really recognized.
They were selling cereals to large customers who had no interest in ecology. Therefore, they made another crucial step in their farming. They decided that they would grind the organic grain themselves and offer their own flour to the customers.
Marijana and Alojz embarked on another project: setting a mill on their farm, so they would be able to grind the organically produced grain themselves.
When we enter their mill, we are charmed by the whiteness and the smell of the fresh flour, which testify of the sanctity of processing of these basic amenities.
We are viewing the bags of wholesome flour and wonder why it is not possible to buy their quality flour in a distant place from where we drove?
The producers explain that they are grinding the grain regularly, every 14 days, and that fresh flour is the best guarantee for a healthy meal. This is why they prefer to be selling it to customers as done in due time at their home.
Educating the consumers
In direct contact with users Marijana and Alojz can also offer some advice.
Marijana has started with the farming on her husband’s initiative. In the morning she is the teacher and in the afternoon she helps with the work on the farm.
Flour which they grind from their home-grown organic cereals, they use themselves as well. But not just for baking, which is common in these parts. She also trained herself in the making of pasta from spelled wheat flour.
On the eco-farm Topolovec they respect the history, the nature, but they are also looking to the future and seeking development that would bring welfare to the local towns.
To give yourself a bit of a scent of Prlekija, you can prepare their homemade apple strudel after Marijana’s recipe! You can also find and Like Eco-farm Topolovec on their Facebook Page.