Modern Farmer magazine has turned its gaze on Albania and the result is an article full of gorgeous photography and praise for the gastronomic products of Albania's agricultural enterprises. I highly recommend you take the time to read Albania Mania. There's a little something for every taste there. Be warned, though, that a young farmer lured into Albania may never be able to return to the ordinary life he left behind.
If you've read any of my previous posts on wandering the rugged roads of Albania, you will know why this article struck a chord with me. Not only does it describe and area I have yet to pass through, but it has characters I identify strongly with. I'm just not sure if I'm the adventurous Brit or the foul-mouthed German. Maybe a bit of both. It's a good read from either perspective.
Following the forced collectivization of agricultural lands during communism and the agrarian reforms of the early 1990's, Albania' fertile land was cut up into tiny privately owned parcels. The new owners had an understandable aversion to "cooperative" farming of any sort having just been freed from the virtual slavery that communist cooperatives employed. Efforts by various international organizations to encourage landowners to collectivize their farmland to take advantage of economies of scale have not taken root quickly. Italian tomato growers, Israeli wheat farmers, and other entrepreneurs tried to coax villagers to combine their plots and use collective assets to produce more only to be stymied by the warren of cinder-block walls and barbed wire fences erected around newly privatized plots. Depressing.
This article shows there is light at the end of the tunnel. The combined strength of Albanians' green thumbs, ideal climate, and desire to succeed has brought the village of Xarre full circle in a successful "capitalist cooperative." We can only hope the owners of the vast fertile fields near Fier, Lushnje, Kavaja, Lac, and Lezhe are paying attention and join this trend.