Reviving the tradition of Lesvos through a cottage industry
by Danae Bersi, Content Creator, New Agriculture New Generation

Our Beneficiaries:

Meet Eleni Sivri, beneficiary of the “Agroanelixis-Cottage Industry” accelerator

Eleni Sivri cultivates endemic varieties found in Lesvos Island and by using traditional methods, she transforms them into products of high quality and nutritional value, thus illuminating traditional aspects of Lesvos hidden for years. Presenting her vision for a cottage industry which, among other things, can also work as an open farm, Eleni managed to be among the 15 beneficiaries of the agri-food acceleration program “Agroanelixis”, implemented by the "New Agriculture New Generation" organization.

Eleni comes from a mountain village on Lesvos called Filia, where she spent all her childhood and adolescence. She was always close to nature and she loved the popular culture of the island. Although she moved to Athens at the age of 19 to study and then to work, she never forgot her grandmother’s Evangelia stories. Stories that talked about a certain variety of roses found only in Lesvos from whose rose petals, through a relatively simple process, comes a unique traditional product of Lesvos called rhodostagma (rosewater).

Making ideas happen:

An open cottage industry of traditional local products found in Lesvos

Eleni returned to Lesvos in February 2014 with the aim of creating her own rose cultivation and then a processing workshop where she could make rosewater. Along with her husband, she now cultivates endemic varieties of rose, fig and vine, from which she produces products such as rosewater, rose vinegar (a recipe lost for at least 2 generations), grape “petimezi” (sirup) with apple geranium extract and fig “petimezi”with apple geranium extract.

"My goal from the beginning was to be able to communicate to the world these unique local products, such as rhodostagma or petimezi, which are an integral part of the popular culture of Lesvos," says Eleni. Thus, she aims to create her own open-to-visitors cottage industry while at the same time envisioning a collective effort of producers, who will be able to put Filia village on the map, as the place where rhodostagma is produced.

As Eleni mentions, of course, a lot of knowledge, resources and recipes were lost over the years and so, she was called to start from scratch, based only on her grandmother's testimonies, her own experiences but also her constant thirst for knowledge through seminars and programs.

"Agroanelixis-Cottage industry":

What’s the agri-food accelerator’s contribution?

Wanting to develop and evolve her vision for the creation of her own cottage industry, Eleni decided to fill out an application to participate in the acceleration program "Agroanelixis" of the "New Agriculture New Generation" organization, where she was ultimately selected among the 15 participants.

" ‘Agroanelixis’ is a really complete program that covers a wide range of knowledge and academic fields in a coordinated way", she states while adding that "If I had known about this agri-food acceleration program earlier, I think I would have gone many steps further in my professional career. The accelerator puts you in a process of self-control and self-evaluation, so you do not need to end the cycle to see the positives, you see them from the first moment ".


Designing together with the “New Agriculture New Generation”’s team her own cottage industry

The goal that has been set through meetings of Eleni with specialized mentors who participate in the "Agroanelixis" program, is the creation and at the same time the modernization of the processing laboratory, aiming at the longevity and sustainability of her cottage industry. The process will be supervised by the “New Agriculture New Generation”’s team for many more months after the program ends.

Another great goal for Eleni is to create a home-made business open to visitors and accessible to all. "My vision is to make both the property and the traditional house included visitable. The house found in the property, after renovation can also function as a guest house", she says. Her intention is for the visitor to have a complete experience, from the collection process, to the processing and the accommodation in a traditional hostel. Thus, the visitor will be able to get in touch with the Lesvos’ culture while reviving the rural countryside life.

Finally, Eleni envisions the creation of a cultural route, which unites the sights of the island that reflect its history and popular character. "I think of a total experience for the visitors of Lesvos, part of which can be spending the night in my cottage industry and participating in its activities," she says while adding that, "traditional products such as rhodostagma and petimezi were always here, they are elements of our popular culture and they have significant value. It’s out debt to highlight that value to the visitors ".