Mentor in group of table grapes
by Steven Tagle, Content Creator, New Agriculture for a New Generation

Meet George

George Papadopoulos, 52 years old, was born in Kilkis and now lives in Thessaloniki. He is an experienced table grape farmer and an active mentor in the New Agriculture for a New Generation program. He studied law at Aristotle University and went to the US for his master’s degree. He lived in the US for six years, got married, and had three kids. In 2004, he and his family returned to Greece, and he started a construction company. He won contracts to privatize the national highways of Greece, renovating the roads, toll stations, and irrigation system. He was responsible for building the new, faster road from Lamia to Athens. 

George’s father and grandfather grew grapes, and now he is expanding their business. He has 8 hectares of Crimson Seedless grapes and is preparing another 16 hectares by buying up neighboring farms. Because of his construction business, he owns all the machinery he needs to prepare the farmland at a relatively low cost. He covers his vineyards to protect them from the weather, first with a plastic net and then with a plastic cover to protect the final harvest from September and October rains.

Mentoring the Table Grape Groups from the “Small Farm Adoption” Project

George has been involved with innovations in the NANG program as well. He started helping two years ago, during the initial design of the program, and he was the first mentor. He is working with the American Farm School (AFS) to create an end-to-end system that will precisely monitor and control the cultivation, harvest, processing, and shipping of table grapes. “We use sensors to measure everything on vine during the cultivation period, including the quality of the soil, the grapes’ sweetness, color, health. Now we are proceeding with a system to monitor storage and transportation from the field to the final buyer. We want the buyer to be able to see exactly how the grapes were grown and to know the name of the farmer, to see his face. I believe that in two or three years, all the big supermarket chains will be asking for this level of precision and accountability.”

The four table grape groups have already been recognized for their outstanding achievements. They were chosen by the European Commission’s Smart Specialisation Platform as an implementation point, to show other member states how to grow grapes using smart technologies and to create a protocol for the next decade. 

In collaboration with AFS, George is also working to bring a new white, seedless grape variety, Autumn King, to Greece from California. “Crimson Seedless is also a California variety,” George said. “These varieties perform well here because our weather matches California weather. But we’re going to have even better results. The Americans can’t believe the size of our grapes and their beautiful crimson color. And it’s all natural. With wine grapes, you’re not interested in how the product looks. You smash it. But with table grapes, people buy first with the eyes. The grapes must look beautiful and they must taste good and be sweet.” George hopes that they will be able to take the Autumn King variety from California next year. 

One of George’s big goals is to organize the young farmers into teams. “If you are not a team, you don’t have power because you won’t be able to deliver the quantities that the markets need,” he said. “I have a contract with a huge company from the UK called Jupiter. They want a truck of grapes per day, 25 tons. In order to deliver this quantity, I need 400 hectares. We prefer to have young farmers on these teams because they are open to learning. They see the results from the first year, and they’re willing to grow with us. With only 2 hectares you can earn 30.000 euros profit. What other industry in Greece can provide you with a profit like that?”