Life as a Grape Farmer
by Steven Tagle, Content Creator, New Agriculture for a New Generation

Meet Giorgos

Giorgos Papanastasiou, 26, was born and raised in Kavala. He studied in the School of Agriculture at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki for five years and grows table grapes with his father Dimitrios and his brother Panagiotis, 30. Together they grow two varieties of table grapes in the village of Kariani, 55 km west of Kavala: 50 acres of Thompson Seedless and 8 acres of Red Globe (which has seeds). Both varieties have good commercial value and thrive in the region.

“Since I was a child, I liked to help my father in the field. At first, it was more of a game, but as I grew older, I helped out more,” Giorgos said. “I learned the whole process of grape growing from my dad. He dreamed that I’d grow up to become a farmer like him. My brother studied business administration and then decided to become a farmer. And after finishing school, I decided to pursue grapes as well.”

Life as a Grape Farmer

Giorgos and his family prune the vineyards for 3-4 months, usually from about December or January until March. There are no leaves on the plants then, just bare branches. “From April to November, there’s lots of work to do in the fields,” Giorgos said. They top and de-leaf the vines and spray plant medicine and fertilizer. The fruit starts to appear in May. They harvest the Thompson Seedless grapes in August and September and the Red Globe grapes in October. With 20 people working together, it takes 10 days to harvest all the grapes. Each acre yields approximately three tons of grapes.

Table grapes grow close to the ground and are highly susceptible to fungi when it rains or when there’s moisture. Last summer was very difficult for the grapes since it rained a lot in June and July. Giorgos wrapped the plants in plastic nylon and gave them medicine to protect them. He fears that due to climate change, the difficulties that the crops face in the future will surely increase.

Collaborating with Other Grape Producers from the Small Farm Adoption Program

Giorgos was one of the grape producers selected by NANG to participate in its two-year Farm Small Farm Adoption Program. Other grape producers come from Kavala, Kilkis, Pella, and Katerini. They grow different varieties of grapes like Vitoria, Italia, and Crimson Seedless, which have different allergies and symptoms, as well as different harvest times because of their different climates.

By collaborating with the other producers, Giorgos has learned from their experiences. “We help each other by sharing advice and deciding how much to sell for,” he said. “We all sell for the same price.” Exporters sell the grapes in Greece and abroad in England, Germany, and Ukraine. “The price that exporters are willing to pay depends on two factors,” Giorgos said. “First, do we have better grapes than other countries like Spain? And second, what is the demand for grapes this year?” The prices change every year, depending on consumers. Last year, Giorgos sold the Thompson Seedless at 0.90 euro per kilo and the Red Globe at 0.60 euro per kilo. He’s eager to continue studying the grapes and refining his farming practices. “With the right combination of pesticides and fertilizers, Ι can improve the product and gain a better price from the market,” he said.