Just off of the Berd city road in the province of Tavush, sits the Kalantaryan farm. It boasts lush green leaves and crops of ripe raspberries ready to be picked. The farm is run by 29-year-old repatriate Mher Kalantaryan. After having lived in Russia for 10 years, Mher found new energy and strength in his homeland and hometown – Choratan village.
Mher was born and raised by his grandparents in Choratan on the borders of Berd region. He quit university early to seek out a prosperous life in Russia, but it did appear to meet his expectations. “I was feeling suffocated there; my thoughts were with my home and my village. So one day, I summoned my courage and came back. I don't regret my decision,” he says boldly.
Early in 2022, Mher opted to give raspberry farming a try. “I didn't know anything about raspberry cultivation, but I knew that it's profitable and I could get a harvest till late autumn, so I gave it a try,” says the young farmer. He introduced innovations in his farm after participation in the USAID-funded Armenia Workforce Development Activity on agriculture. Through the training, Mher discovered and began to use innovations such as integrated pest management and drip irrigation, which cuts labor and water usage by half.
“In the past few months, I've learned about all the steps that go into raspberry farming – from soil preparation to disease prevention and daily plant cultivation. Everything I know, I learned from our theoretical and practical courses, some of which were held on my farm. For example, I didn't know that every plant or tree has its own limit of irrigation, and if you water plants too much they might develop root diseases.”
“I think the training and the program, in general, have equipped me and my younger peers with the tools and knowledge to make agriculture a profitable career. We also held discussions on branding, marketing, and collaboration with customers. It was so helpful and interesting that one day I arrived late to my fields. The combine harvester had already collected the grains,” he notes with a smile. Being a farmer is no longer a low-level, low-income job; it’s just the contrary – without smart farming, we won’t have ensured food security.
“Choratan is my birthplace; I can't imagine my life anywhere else, especially now since I have a family, a child who is going to continue my path. I feel more empowered than ever standing firm on my land. I also want to empower my fellow village residents and transform our community. I found the key to making it happen – it's raspberry cultivation and production, which will help us promote the sale of our local berries and create new job opportunities,” he concludes.
Launched in October 2021, Armenia Workforce Development Activity is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the Enterprise Incubator Foundation (EIF) and consortium partners, including the Armenian National Agrarian University (ANAU) Foundation, Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) and Civitta Armenia. The activity aims to equip 10,000 young people aged 15-29 in all provinces of Armenia with high-demand skills and ensure 7,000 have better employment opportunities in the fields of ICT/high-tech, agriculture, and hospitality.