The Malta Independent 17 August 2019, Saturday

EU+ME: Hatching an idea with EU help

Tuesday, 9 April 2019, 10:03 Last update: about 5 months ago

Cultivating a successful business formula needs the right environment and the right vision. Young farmer Karl Scerri says that funds are just one part of the help his operation St Mary’s Farm received from the EU

What attracted you to this demanding job?

Farming is a way of life: direct contact with the natural cycle is incredibly fulfilling. It certainly is not an easy job; it is labour-intensive and you must follow an unforgiving rhythm, day-in, day-out. Apart from the work on the farm itself, you still have to cope with all the aspects of business that any other company deals with - trading, paperwork, purchasing, and so on.

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The process of delivering fresh, local produce of high quality is, at the end of the day, my greatest satisfaction. We adhere strictly to EU guidelines, which guarantee the best food standards in the world, so we are proud to offer the Maltese market kilometre-zero products that reach European quality standards.

I feel we have a responsibility towards our consumers, the animals we keep, the environment, and future generations. So, we are not only growing a business, but growing a way of thinking, too - we are nurturing a belief in the local product.

 

Was help from the EU tangible enough for your business?

Yes, help from the EU was instrumental in us developing our business in ways that we otherwise could not have done. We applied for funding to be able to invest in systems and technology that allowed us to reach the highest standards.

The new processes we installed not only make our operations safer and more efficient, but we can also assure better care of the animals and bring an improved product to the market. The benefits of the programme have an effect on all aspects of the business, not least the consumers.

EU help also had a direct effect on our attitudes: we now want to remain at the top of the game in terms of quality and sustainability, and our customers can expect the best products cultivated to the highest international standards.

 

Is EU assistance all about the money, then?

As important as the funds were to grow our operations, I do not think the most profitable assistance by the EU was the money. The EU facilitates exchange and networking opportunities for young people working in the agricultural sector. We meet to share the challenges we face, to learn from each other's experience and to voice our common positions. I have participated in fora around Europe and even further away, and every time I have returned enriched and better informed.

The EU's strength is in its ability to create common ground between a diversity of people and ways, and in our particular sector we sometimes feel the differences among European farmers are far too great. Engagement with other young farmers has been the biggest gain, even more than the funding programme itself. Understanding trends and anticipating changes is crucial in our line of work and networking is the best way to keep abreast of developments.

Mine is not a conventional job. Not many people of my age choose to go into business, fewer still in the agricultural sector. But my contacts around Europe are a source of support and I feel empowered by the EU's initiatives for us young farmers. I feel I have a voice in the matters that affect my living, and that the EU is ready to listen.

This interview is part of the #EUANDME campaign. Learn more on europa.eu/euandme


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