Reflections: Poland, Farming, Fresh Perspectives

It is a strange feeling to come to the end of our 19th International Farm Management Congress and tour of Poland. 

It seems we have spent a lifetime here with all of the places we have been and knowledge we have gained, and yet, it feels like we only just arrived yesterday. How quickly our IFMA acquaintances become not only our friends, but our family. While we sometimes refer to our ‘home away from home’, it seems we’re at the end of our family reunion! We have all said our goodbyes – with promises to see each other again in 2 years’ time in Canada. I cannot wait to introduce all of you to our IFMA family. 

I am delighted to have been among 17 Canadian delegates at the Congress, and look forward to bringing many more into this wonderful Association.

What a remarkable feeling to be presenting a paper to a room full of delegates from across the globe, only to realize you are in complete harmony with others in Norway, Uruguay and South Africa. And, the connection is made, just like that. We’ve been singing from the same song sheet without knowing it…imagine the harmonies we can make together!

I feel a sense of overwhelming privilege and pride to be part of such a high-spirited and caring group – the best ambassadors for lifelong learning and convalescence through connectivity, the world over. For we know there is always room for improvement and rewards to be had by letting your guard down – by seeing life, farming, agriculture, through the eyes of others.

We quickly forget our differences and see our common ground in humanity and life’s simple pleasures – in living, loving, laughing and learning.

Lasting Impressions
In Poland, the people we have met and the stories we have shared have truly touched our hearts and opened our minds. One night at dinner, our guide Jan told us of his first experience outside of Poland when he was just a boy. He recalls the ‘Western World’ – our colours, the smell of our clothes, our smiles, breathed ‘new life into him’. Humbling, isn’t it?

Poland’s resilience through uncertainty is remarkable.

Fear comes from uncertainty.
~Willian Congreve

I hope that you will take an opportunity to come visit Poland for yourself and learn from its past; our past – and, be inspired in looking around and ahead.

Looking to the Future
You will recall from a previous post that Poland is starting to and will undergo some significant changes in agricultural policy in the coming years. By 2015/17,
– All quota will be removed (dairy, sugar)
– Subsidies will be reduced (~30%) and farms treated individually
– 4-7% environmental preservation of land will be required

The farmers we met seem keen to welcome a more open market as they feel their business management skills will give them the competitive edge over others who depend upon subsidies for financial and risk management. As with all countries, we know that sustainable business depends of profit margins comfortably exceeding cost of production. While variables change in priority and practice, some common themes definitely emerge – labour access and availability, growth and expansion, capacity to sustain, farm succession and working with agricultural policy.

Looking at processing plants like ROJA, removal of subsidies could have a significant impact on supply chain industries – where will the money come from to build a processing plant stemming from a farmer cooperative in future?

Regarding the environmental requirements, this is surely good news to bee keepers who are very concerned about sustaining the bee population. If farmers retain dedicated parcels of land untouched by fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, bees may have a chance.

One of the limiting factors for farm management and growth is the separation of agricultural plots. Strip agriculture is everywhere, creating a logistical nightmare for farmers. Hopefully as the state continues to see off property, farmers can purchase larger plots of joined land.


poland strips

I want to reiterate that this blog is subject to our understanding and perceptions and there is much more to be said and discussed regarding this experience. We certainly welcome your comments and questions, and additions!

Become a part of IFMA!
All of the Congress Papers will be available on very soon, and select papers will be published in the International Journal of Agricultural Management.

I invite you all to join us in bringing the 20th International Farm Management Congress to Canada in 2015.

Attend, bring your family, bring your farm team, bring your colleagues, sponsor your students, clients and young farmers.

The International Farm Management Congress is, by far, the best kept secret for lifelong learning in agriculture.

Come join us, won’t you?

While the tours have finished, we will continue to use this blog to share post-Congress updates.

Thanks very much for your support in subscribing and reading the blog!

– The FMC Team


Poland’s Horse and Apple industry, Naturally!

Today is the last day of our adventure in Poland. As we make our way back to Warsaw, we’ll be dropping by one of Poland’s top Arabian stud farms followed by ROJA apple processors.


Michałów State Stud Farm
Michałów State Stud Farm has been breeding pure-bred Arabian horses for sixty years.

With over 100 broodmares and 400 Arabians at the stud, Michałów is the largest Arabian facility in Poland, and is considered one of the largest and most prestigious farms in Europe, not to mention the entire globe. At present, Michałów still operates as a subsidiary of the Agriculture Property Agency of the State Treasury in Warsaw.





Pictured above: Poland, EU and World Champion

The Arabians have won 11 American championships, 8 EU championships and 10 World championships. The Farm holds the world record for selling a female horse for 1,125,000 Euros. On average, the Arabians sell for 70,000 Euro, however lower-end horses can go for 2,000-5,000 Euros each.

We were very privileged to see the 400 horses put to pasture.


Unique to this Farm is the Tarzan colour of the Tarrant breed (Mongolian descent).


The Farm enjoys 700ha of land on two farms. 400ha grow corn, wheat, barley and rape, bringing in 1000t/yr.

The farm employs 15 persons for the stud business, and 8 persons for the dairy business. 70% of the farm’s profits come from the Arabian Farm.

The Farm also has a dairy operation of 300 cows (100 Jersey, 200 Friesian). The Jersey milk is used for cheese while the Freisians are used for milk.




ROJA Farm: Apple Co-operative and Processors
ROJA is a family business. We were toured around and hosted by the founder/owner/president’s son and daughter-in-law.


ROJA was officially opened in January 2013 as a processing cooperative, collecting apples from 1000 hectares of orchards, which consists of 43 growers. There are no other equity partners in the plant apart from its farmer members who receive equity/voting rights based on their production quantity (at a maximum of 20% equity). The cooperative meet monthly to discuss issues and opportunities. Due to high tech data collection, growers readily receive reports on their apples and traceability is top of the line.

70% of the costs to build the plant were garnered from EU subsidies, while the producers invested the rest (a total investment of 200million PLN for the entire operation).

Subsidies as such ended in April 2013.

According to our host, the plant receives minimal profit because the farmers are guaranteed a certain price for their apples and must be paid first. The plant sets an average price and at the end of the season, if prices were higher, growers receive the difference.

Exports are to England, Spain, France and Russia.

Optimal production is 60,000 tonnes of apples/yr. Each kilogram is sold for approximately 1-2PLN. Poland produced 3.5million tonnes of apples in 2012.
The processing plant employs 56 people.

apple2As the apples move through the assembly line, each apple is photographed 20 times to rate size, colour, shape, etc. so that the apples can then be sorted.
The facility can store 5000 plastic crates of apples (each measuring 3×3 feet). Apples are stored at 35 degs Fahrenheit with 1-1.5% Oxygen. Apples can typically be stored for a year and retain their quality. We munched on apples picked last October and they were absolutely delicious…and huge!


After the tour, we were invited back to the son’s house. Pretty impressive – a previous state home.



Tonight we’re back in Warsaw, saying goodbye to our friends and IFMA family to return to our countries and share all that we have learned!

Efficiency at its Finest – from Bees to Sheep to Windows?

Business is business.

Today started with a visit to the Centre for Apitherapy in Kamianna followed by Sheep Farming with Roman Kluska, followed by a tour of the Fakro rooftop windows factory.

Centre for Apitherapy
apitherapy1Kamianna is a small town of 200, of which 100 are currently employed by the Apitherapy Centre. It is the honey capital of Poland!

However, let’s start at the beginning. Dating back to the 16th century, the villagers were extradited in 1947 to Ukraine.

In 1960, Dr. Henry Ostach arrived in Kamianna. He was a beekeeping enthusiast and a great social activist. From this moment, Kamianna has continued to undergo significant prosperity and development whilst staying humble in tradition and roots.

The hives produce 70kg/hive/yr in a good year.

Some value-added products:

– Pollen (rich source of vitamins)
– Bee bread (used in cancer treatment)
– Propolis solution, ointment, suppositories, intravaginal tablets, cream
– Beeswax candles

apitherapy2The Centre also delivers honey to the Pope.

A little tidbit for my mum – burning beeswax helps calm the nerves of palliative patients as well as relieving the stress and anxiety of those around them.
Queens are produced using artificial insemination, if you can believe it. Here’s a peek inside the laboratory where this is performed.

Ecological Sheep Farming of Roman Kluska
ecosheep2The Kluska farm specializes in Fresian sheep for cheese production using ecological practices including natural breeding and selection of traits. All product is non-GMO and therefore neighbouring sheep are not allowed to pasture on the property for risk of GMO contamination.

This farm business includes a number of elements in the supply chain to keep costs and resources under control including on-farm cheese processing and water treatment facility.

I have to say, these were the cleanest sheep I have seen as they are bred for no hair on the tail.

ecosheep ecosheep4 ecosheep3

Sheep farming facts:
– Produce 1-4L milk/sheep/day
– Milk twice a day with 40 milking stations
– No artificial insemination
– Lambing February – April (sometimes into May)
– 300 ewes, 250 lambs
– Lambing at 1.9
– Not allowed to slaughter on farm for meat
– Wool purchased by external companies
– Price margins poor due to excessive regulations

The Cheese
– 200L milk = 50kg cheese
– 200PLN/kg of cheese retail

The farm is aiming to grow to 1000 sheep and will need to acquire neighbouring land to do so, which is available in the area. The current farm is 100ha and land prices average 100,000-200,000PLN/ha (to get dollars, divide by 3).

FAKRO was established in 1991 by founder and current COO Ryszard Florek from his own woodworking shop established in 1986. Now, FAKRO is world leading, producing 15% of the global share of roof windows.

fakro1 fakro2 fakro3

And, what does this have to do with agriculture? 2 things: 1) they produce windows for barn roofs, 2) they have a from-the-ground-up entrepreneurial business approach that has resulted in much success. Great management is evident here from the people to the product.

Oftentimes, I get asked to bring good business examples from outside of agriculture to provide a new perspective on agriculture and business management, and FAKRO allows us to do just that. Made up of 12 manufacturing companies and 15 foreign subsidiaries all over the world, FAKRO employs 3300 people.

In terms of environmental responsibilities, FAKRO is FSC (meaning they source wood only wherein the rate of new planting exceeds the rate of removal). And, their products help create better energy efficiency for buildings and homes.

FAKRO treated us to a lovely lunch followed by a presentation by Kris. We even got to wear 3-D glasses to see how they use software to view their product from every angle and choose functionality and innovations.

Participants were toured through the factory and also got the chance to see some of their quality control measures.

Their rooftop windows are really quite remarkable – from 180 pivot windows to fire escapes to creating small balconies.

Following the factory tour, we were treated to another wonderful dinner with stuffed peppers, stuffed zucchini, goulash and cold cuts followed by an evening of 10 pin bowling. Razzle dazzle, what a wonderful day we’ve had!

Onto Niedzica castle tomorrow.


Royalty and Queen Bees of Poland

Today began with a journey to Lancut Castle, dating back to the early Medieval Ages (1300s).


Lancut Castle

lancut castle
In the second half of the 18 century, the fortress was converted into palace-park complex.

In 1944, then owner Alfred III Potocki fled the castle for Sweden, taking with him 11 carriages of goods. It was there that he lived out his days. Having never born any children, the castle became state-owned and is now a national treasure.

Moving about the castle, we had to don fleece slippers so as to not damage the extremely ornate floors.  I’m surprised everyone stayed upright, as it was like walking on ice!

lancut castle exterior

Unfortunately, we were not able to take photos inside of the castle, but the decorations were the most elaborate I have seen and included a multicultural flare including a Chinese room.


lancit castle interior


Sadecki Bartnik

20130729_171218Sadecki Bartnik is a wonderful tribute to the history and modernization of bee farming – apiculture.

After a glorious lunch of honey/mint water, potatoes and dill, chicken and pickled cabbage, Paul, our guide, toured us through various bee hive designs and measures to keep bears and other predators away.

Interesting facts:

  • Einstein once said that if the bees disappear, people will only survive for 4 years if there is nothing to pollinate the flowers of plants bearing fruit and vegetables
  • Bees are in danger from pesticides and herbicides as well as parasites, fungus and mites
  • The queen bee produces 3000 eggs per day and typically can last 7 years before removing herself from the hive to die (so as to not dirty the hive)
  • If the queen does not produce sufficiently, she will be removed from the hive
  • The smoker used by the bee keeper alerts the bees to a fire so they fill up with food to ready to move hives. In this state, the bees swell around their stinger and cannot hurt the bee keeper
  • Bees ‘dance’ to indicate where nectar can be found and how much nectar bees must ingest to make it there
  • Bees flap their wings to keep the hive cool/regulated in temperature

20130729_170849 20130729_171551 20130729_171711 20130729_173053

We then set off for Muszya, famous for its mineral water. Upon arrival, we were treated to a lovely dinner of split pea and ham soup, chicken kabobs, steak, perogies, grilled sheep cheese, potatoes and sausage!


And, we got our dance on!


From Flowers to Fertilizer – Big production in Poland

The Post-Congress Tour of Poland is officially underway.

Departing Warsaw, our first stop was JMP flowers owned by the Ptaszek family.

JMP Flowers


aranthium colours

The green house is considered the most modern in the world and is derived from a Dutch design. JMP flowers produces the Anthurium, Roses and Orchids. Started in 1977, the family has grown to the largest flower producer in Poland and the second largest producer of anthurium in Europe.

At 11ha, the company employs 100 workers for continuous cutting of over 60 varieties of roses, 4 types of anthurium and several dozen types of orchids. All picking/cutting is done by hand.

Before entering the greenhouses, delegates were required to disinfect hands and feet – a contrast to the lack of biosafety at the pig farm visited earlier in the week.


aranthium pinkAt 11 years old, the crop becomes economically unviable, however technically, the plant could live forever. Once cut, the flower can live from 3-7 weeks.

aranthium lots

greenhousesJMP embrace innovation. Typically anthurium produces leaf-flower-leaf-flower, limiting the amount of flowers you can derive from a single plant. However, JMP discovered that if they cut the leaves when they’re young, they’ll maximize photosynthesis for the flower without crowding out room for more propagation per m2. This resulted in a 20% increase in production, and also, a decrease In labour as employees could move through the flowers much quicker with less greenery crowding. Now, other greenhouses are adopting this method.


Rose production is extremely labour intensive. Roses are cut up to 3-4 times per day, which required 4.5 persons per hectare cutting 50,000 stems per day. Employees receive 1 day off per week.

Roses can receive 1.5-7 PLN/stem. Employees are paid a salary (12 PLN/hr) plus incentives for more stems/hr. Our host commented that when an employee sees their friend working hard, they’ll work harder too. All employees are Polish locals, to ‘give the employees a sense of pride and belonging to the company’.

JMP’s rose production represents the largest air conditioned project in the EU.


orchidsOrchids represent 5hs of production and is the most automated of the 3 flowers. Orchides are photograohed 360 degrees so that the employees can input desirable traits into a computer and the automated assembly line can gather such plants for shipping.

When JMP started into this business, import of orchids nearly ended in Poland.

In terms of the 3 flowers, orchids are the higher cost, but bring in more revenue to cover the other production, followed by roses and finally anthurium. 1ha of the orchid greenhouse without plants can buy 8ha of a tomato greenhouse totally loaded with plants.

As a competive advantage, JMP can start flower production 2 weeks in advance of others. JMP also uses high tech data collection instruments to determine the forecast (ex. Cloud cover) 2 hours in advance, and also track employee productivity to make management decisions. For instance, if the company garners increased value from a certain crop, only to find out the production costs an hour per day more in labour, it may not be financially viable to pursue that crop anymore.

Future goals are to have less employees, however earning higher salaries. JMP does not receive any subsidies from the EU because there are no specialists able to evaluate production.

Grupa Azoty – Pulawy

pulawyOur next stop was the Pulawy fertilizer plant that specializes in the production of nitrogen fertilizer (urea) and is one of the world’s largest producers of melamine. Grupa also offers engineering plastics, from OXO alcohols through to plasticizers and pigments. Their own R&D, design and servixing units allow them to render various services.

Of most interest…the CO2 as a waste product from the company’s main production is being used under high pressure and temperature to extract oils from pumpkin, blackcurrant, raspberries, hops and other products. The hops extract is being used to supply 30% of German beer company’s requirements (ex. Carlsberg), and some extracts are going for $1mill/kg due to their cancer treatment qualities.

Tonight we are off to Zamosc and starting tomorrow with a guided tour of the renaissance city followed by 2 farm visits: Wieslaw Gryn and Guciow Farm.



Poland Shows off its Diversity in Farm Businesses

Today was the second farm tour day and I took part in the Diversity of Farm Businesses field trip.

Strawberry Farm – Grzegorz Mitura

strawberry jonesyGrzegorz’s farm is located in the north-western part of the voivodeship which is constituted by 83% arable land of which 1/3 is strawberry production. His farm also produces corn and wheat.

The farm has grown from 17ha to 100ha since 1996 and a former pig barn has been converted into accommodation for 100 seasonal workers – mostly coming from Ukraine, and making 15 cents/kg harvest picked during harvest. In 2-3 days, seasonal workers can earn the equivalent of a month’s wages in Ukraine.

An interesting tidbit – Grzegorz ensures he provides his seasonal workers with food rather than have them buy their own, because they will purchase the cheapest food in order to retain the maximum wages. However, this results in poor health and therefore, poor performance.

The variety of strawberry being used has been carefully selected as one that does not recognize light, so it keeps producing fruit instead of going dormant when deprived of sun. For Polish farmers, the cost of production is greatly increased by the parceling of land. Grzegorz’s largest plot is 35ha and a lot of time is spent moving between fields. Land prices are approximately $250 EU per acre.

In Poland, there is state-owned and private owned land. Farmer-owned land is much more profitable than state-owned and therefore the state are trying to sell the state-owned land. However, according to Grzegorz, many private firms are buying the land as investments rather being purchased by farmers to work the land.

Machinery costs as approximately $700k EU and the farm supports 3 families – Grzegorz, his parents and his sibling.

Cultivation profitability is:
Total direct costs: 25,038
PLN/1kg strawberry: .71
Gross margin: 44,963

The main challenge? Access to cheap labour force.

It was encouraging to see such a young, vibrant farmer. Very switched on.

Green Factory – Vegetable Processing

fit and easy saladStarted in 2006, Green Factory is a family business that focuses on the production of ready-to-eat salads.

Green Factory employs 211 individuals and cultivates vegetables on 466ha of land and is planning to obtain another 300ha of land in the coming year. Out of the Polish growing season, Green Factory imports product from Spain, France, Italy and Greece to offer fresh vegetables year-round.

Green Factory is one of two suppliers of salad to McDonalds in Poland.

lettuce field

Lettuce field

lettuce harvester

Lettuce harvestor

lettuce workers

Seasonal workers cut, bag and pack lettuce in the field

Mintex – Mint Farm

mintexThe farm was taken over by the parents of the current owners in 1980. The Mikolajcyzk family were the first in the area to start producing mint in this district and are currently the largest producer in Ireland, moving from 8ha to 120ha currently. Mint accounts for 90% of the farm’s revenue, and the farm have just begun strawberry and Melissa (lemon balm) production to extend the opportunities for seasonal workers, which are difficult to obtain for short-season harvesting.

Peppermint Cultivation Profitability:

Total direct costs: 8450
Cost per 1kg: 2.8
Gross margin: 786,000

The vast majority of production is exported to Germany and the final product is dried leaves and not oil as there is no demand/market for oil. Since pesticide suitability for herbs is limited, weeding is done by hand by 30 seasonal workers.

The Mikolajcyzk’s are very conscious of the market and consumer demand, and produce just for that .

Kowalski Kzysztof – Flaxseed Oil, Canola Oil, Pig Production
The family farm produces traditional cold-pressed linseed (flax) and rapeseed (canola) oil s well as breeding Zlotnicka White pigs with the University of Life Science. All product is sold directly from the farm. The waste product from oil production (cake) is fed to the pigs who reside in group pens with a hay mixture bedding.

Started in 1984, currently activities are carried out on 82ha.

flax crushing

Enlargement opportunities are limited by costs of 50-60k PLN/ha.

1 ton of flax = 250 lites of oil

1 ton of canola oilsed = 300 litres of oil




DSC00774Zlotnicka Pigs
– 40 sows produce 14 piglets annually
– Fattening period: 8 months
– 50-55% meat
– Meat does not shrink under culinary conditions
– Good fragrance and flavor

Plans for the future?
– Agritourism
– On-farm meat processing
– Wild rose production

Unbelievably, the pigs did not produce a smell at all and we all came away smelling of roses. Incredible.

Kzysztof treated us to a choir, dancers and food. We had a wonderful time. We also had the pleasure of celebrating Kzysztof’s names day which is similar to a birthday but carries more importance.



polish dancing flax

Last day of the Congress tomorrow, with a great line up!

Saturday we begin our post-congress tour filled with farm visits and historic/cultural sites of Poland, galore!


IFMA19 makes headlines at Bronisze Wholesale Market

Brilliant! Made headlines on Bronisze website

Uczestnicy XIX Kongresu International Farm Managment Association w Broniszach /

Participants XIX Congress of International Farm Management Association in Bronisze

23 lipca 2013 12:38


Prawie 50 uczestników XIX Kongresu IFMA International Farm Managment Association bioracych udział  w zorganizowanym przezSGGW  Kongresie odwiedziło 23 lipca Rynek Hurtowy Bronisze. Uczestnikami są naukowcy i praktycy z 40 krajów świata.Goście spotkali się z Zarządem Rynku jak również zwiedzili poszczególne sektory handlowe. / Nearly 50 participants XIX Congress of IFMA International Farm Management Association participating in the Congress, organized by the Agricultural University visited July 23 Bronisze Wholesale Market. The participants include researchers and practitioners from 40 countries.

Goście spotkali się z Zarządem Rynku jak również zwiedzili poszczególne sektory handlowe. / Guests met with the Board, visited the market as well as various commercial sectors.


Wśród licznych pytań wiele dotyczyło systemu dystrybucji owoców i warzyw jak również roli rynków w łańcuchu dystrybucji świeżej, nieprzetworzonej zywności. / Among the many questions related to the distribution system of many fruits and vegetables as well as the role of markets in the supply chain of fresh, unprocessed foods.

Kolejna grupa uczestników Kongresu spodziewana jest w najbliższy czwartek 25 lipca. Another group of participants of the Congress is expected this Thursday, July 25.