2015 was a challenging year in Moldova, with much of the country receiving no rain from early May until October. Crops were typically about 30% of normal, and in many cases, there was no harvest. An unstable economy and political environment only added to the difficulties that most people faced.
In spite of these obstacles, the AgriService Moldova projects were still very successful. Although yields were not what were hoped for, they were still better than local averages, and the people they worked with were able to survive and continue providing for their families and those who are affected by their enterprise.
The No-Till/Cover Crop Project is gaining ground, as these past years have demonstrated that this system provides comparable or superior results while significantly reducing the cost of establishing the crop. Many people are taking notice of the projects and this is providing an opportunity to teach more about this method of farming.
Igor and Vera Costeleanu
Igor and Vera have survived a very difficult summer, with extreme drought limiting forages, pastures and milk production, the lost of their best cow, importation of cheap Ukrainian dairy products and a very unstable
They are currently milking 6 cows, averaging about 8 liters per cow. One of the cows is just fresh and doing very well, 2 are mid-lactation, and 3 are late lactation, soon to go dry. With the poor economy, many people stopped buying milk and other dairy products, so it was a challenge to sell all of their production this summer at good prices. local economy.
They are in good shape with forages. Igor was able to get 5 cuttings off his alfalfa field, some of the cuttings not making much because of the drought, but he cut on time anyway, like a good farmer should, and as a result has about 600 bales of very good alfalfa hay. He also bought some corn silage and has it stored in a pit he hand dug.
The quality of their dairy products is still exceptional, and they are able to get a premium for their products, about 35% higher than commercially available products. When shop owners try to get him to lower his prices, Igor simply tells them to buy cheaper from someone else, and it isn’t long that the shops are back buying their products because the customers are demanding the higher quality dairy products that Igor and Vera supply.
They still have 3 sows. They are planning on farrowing again in March. While they had a nice crop of piglets to sell this year, prices were extremely low, and they only broke even on the pigs this year.
The year wasn’t very good to Ion, with the extreme drought, and because he was working for one of the large farmers in the region, doing tractor work. Because he was doing all of the planting for the other man, he did not get his corn planted until May 9. With the lack of rain from May until October, he had no harvest from the corn, about .75 tons/hectare of sunflower, and about 35-bushel/hectare of wheat.
Ion decided to find a way to manage with what he has. He still has 54 sheep, 2 sows, 1 boar and 14 piglets. The small pigs aren’t doing very well at the moment, because he has not been able to take proper care of them. He would really like to put up 2 8×30 meter greenhouses, but currently doesn’t have the resources to build them, and isn’t sure that he wants to go in debt at this point in his life to borrow the funds to buy the material to build them.
Ion was plowing the original field that he first started on the ASM program, with the tractor ASM helped him purchase 10 years ago. The soil conditions were perfect for plowing, and he said that he was never able to plow as well at this time of the year. He plans to continue implementing the things he has learned over the past 11 years.
The drought affected Iablona just like the rest of Moldova, but with the great corn harvest last year, they are in very good position with enough feed for the pigs this coming year. Nicholae only planted about 1 hectare of corn this year and got no harvest from it. They also planted soybeans and got no harvest. They did manage to harvest about .75 tons/hectare of sunflower, and about 35 bu/hectare of barley. With the corn, sunflower and barley, feed inventories are very good. They had no harvest from their watermelons this year.
They are still raising pigs, but are slowing down with production, planning of raising enough for the needs of the Old People’s Home. Pork prices are way down, and Nicholae is still owed 30,000 lei for pigs he sold this summer.
Plans for 2016 are to plant about equal amounts of corn, sunflower and barley. They will discontinue to plant watermelons, as the fields they had rented along the main road are no longer available.
The home currently has 44 residents being cared for by a total of 15 staff. They could have up to 55 residents, but are limited by the number they can care for based on how many are bed-fast given the current staff. Slavic said it is getting more and more difficult to find younger workers, as many of the youth in the village as well as all of Moldova are leaving to find work elsewhere.
The Home is going well, surviving in spite of lessening support, providing excellent care for the residents. With the new well and water system in place, they have been able to adequately supply the Home, the farm, and the ability to irrigate the Home gardens has allowed them to raise nearly all of the food needs for them, aside from staples. Slavic said they were able to harvest over 2 tons of strawberries from an area slightly over ¼ of an acre.
Slavic is quite adept at soliciting help from churches in the region, to help with various projects for the Home, such as repairs and remodeling, as well as help with some of the programs for the residents. The installation of a wood-heat system has allowed them to reduce their heating costs to about a quarter of the previous system. Their actual money out-lay per resident is about 2,000 lei per month – less than half what other institutions charge for lower quality care. The work of the Home continues to be of great importance.
The farm at Dancu probably was effected more by the drought than any of the other projects that we work with, mainly because of the size of the project and the great need for income. They had great hopes for even a modest harvest to off-set the cost of supplies for the farm. They harvested 120 tonnes of wheat from 60 hectares, 88 tonnes of sunflower from 110 hectares, no corn grain from 60 hectares.
The irrigation equipment has allowed them to have adequate supplies of forages for the dairy farm. They were able to harvest 150 tonnes of corn silage from 10 irrigated acres, 5 cuttings of alfalfa from the old field and 2 cuttings from the new seeded alfalfa. The purchase of a good silage harvester allowed them to chop the 60 hectares of corn for silage providing another 200 tonnes.
They are currently milking 14 cows, averaging about 8 liters of milk per hd/day. Production is low right now, as there are few fresh cows. AgConnect Ministries provided the resources to purchase 11 springing heifers, 3 which recently freshened, the remainder to freshen over the next couple of months. ACM will be providing the resources to purchase 11 additional animals, which will give them 40 lactating animals. The 11 purchased were from a good herd, and are very nice looking heifers. Prices are good to purchase at this time, due to the shortage of feed.
They also purchased 2 new milkers, something crucial with the expansion of the milking herd. They found 2 very good used bucket milkers that were manufactured in Turkey.
They currently have 20 bulls they are feeding. They will butcher one for their program of feeding the elderly, and will sell 8 for meat. They will have 11 left which will be ready to sell in the coming year.
Dancu also rebuilt the area where they were keeping some pigs, building an area on slats. They were able to purchase some very good genetics from a pastor that they knew. They plan to keep 2 or 3 gilts and a boar to raise enough meat for their food program, and for their workers. They will have some pigs to sell in a couple of months. They are doing a very good job raising the pigs, some of the in Moldova. Slavic also said that about 30% of the families in the 2 villages are raising some pigs because they are able to get whey from Dancu to feed their animals, a very valuable resource to the community.
They recently finished the roof on a structure that will provide protection from the weather to the cows which are outside. They are really working hard to improve their overall animal production. Being able to develop a comprehensive plan for them this spring has been a huge encouragement and motivation for them. Having this plan has helped them to prioritize their needs, so that they had a clear picture of what needed to be accomplished, what to focus on first, and have some sort of estimation of the costs to complete all of the projects. They have shared this with other supporters, and this is generating enthusiasm and resources to bring to a level where the dairy operation not only employs a significant number of people in the village, but is starting to be a profit center for the Association. The hopes are to complete this plan within the next year.
One of the priorities was to build a calf facility that was designed properly to do a good job raising calves in a more healthy environment. As the genetics of the herd will improve over the coming years, it is crucial to have the proper facilities to allow them to have the best animals possible for their dairy. Plans for a structure were drawn up in May, and through the summer they were able to build it, completing in time for when the bulk of the calves were born before the end of the year.The next step will be to remodel the former shop area into a facility for the weaned calves.
One of the exciting developments for Dancu this year was that with the irrigation project being implemented, is the opportunity to develop vegetable production. They just took delivery of a new tractor and rototiller to be able to prepare the seed beds for their vegetables. They also purchased a smaller tractor and rototiller to be used in closer areas. This will provide some more jobs in the community, as well as providing food for their program to feed the elderly in the village, and providing income for the Association.
One of the bright spots for Dancu this year was the combine. They were able to do quite a bit of custom harvesting, with the combine bringing in 220,000 lei this year – a little over $11,000. This allowed them to at cover about 1/2 the costs of fertilizer, seed and herbicide for the past year. People were extremely pleased with job that they were able to do, and they anticipate that this will continue to be a great opportunity for them.
Dumitru planted about 100 hectares of wheat in early October, and they have a very good stand. They will evaluate the stand in the spring, deciding if they keep those acres for harvest, or use the wheat as a cover crop for corn and sunflower. They plan to plant 25 hectares of corn for grain, 10 hectares for corn silage – double cropped after barley on their irrigated land, and about 110 hectares of sunflower. They are farming about 250 hectares with 220 families a part of the association.
2016 No-Till projections are for 40 hectares of sunflower, 10 hectares of corn, and 10 hectares of corn silage. Dumitru is very excited with what he is seeing with the No-Till, and a number of farmers have visited the fields to observe the results. They are realizing a 40-60% savings on fuel and labor costs to establish crops with the No-Till system, and yields being the same.
There are 28 students at the kindergarten this year. This continues to be a significant work that is being done in Vadul lui Isac, that has influenced the lives of hundreds of children and their families. It has had a positive effect on the village, the church, the region and the country, as they are providing an excellent education as well as bringing hope, encouragement and a positive outlook on life for these children. Andre and Michael recognize that all ministries have a life-span, and that there may come a time when this one will come to an end, but they want to continue the work as long as possible. ASM providing the support to operate this ministry is crucial to it’s survival, as they are not receiving other support.
The quality of care and learning from this program are beyond what is available anywhere else, and there are people who are well off who want to send their children there, because of the high level of learning that is taught, and the special attention that is given to each child. There are also problem children sent to them, because the State Institutions don’t give the individual attention needed to help children that need extra care and attention.
They continue to need the funds for daily operation, food for the children, salaries for the staff, heat and electricity for the facility. They really need funds to remodel the kitchen as this does not meet standards for providing foods as an institution. They also need to replace the roof, as there are leaks in the existing roof. This is an area that needs some significant funding in the coming year.
While the weather this year was not favorable to the farming projects, overall things went well. The No-Till, Cover Crop concept is taking hold, and neighboring farmers are paying attention. This will continue to take a lot of time to educate and demonstrate the value of this way of farming.
The dairy projects are coming along well, and while prices are not glamourous, both Dancu and Igor are excited about what has been happening and the potential for growth.
The economic and political outlook continue to look bleak, with no easy fixes or answers to the problems that Moldova faces. We need to continue to provide hope for the ones that we are working with, and for others that God places in our path. The need for the work of ASM will continue as long as we are able to be led by God to do what we can do, and not being overwhelmed by the great needs or by trying to do more than we are able.
Leslie D. Yoder