The Baranauskai farm belongs to Vaidas and Egle, farmers who have only recently entered the role of entrepreneurs. Baranauskai farm is a multifunctional farm located halfway between Marijampole and Vilkaviskis. Egle’s parents established the original farm in 2006 where they produced rape and wheat for export. However, in 2015 Egle and Vaidas decided to establish an additional source of income. With the support of Egle’s parents and EU funding, they founded their own farm where they started cultivating organic hemps and Galloway cattle. The cultivation of organic hemp is still a niche in Lithuania, and although the farmers do not have many competitors on the Lithuanian market, they had to learn many lessons themselves. First, they bought 40 ha of land and raw materials and in the course of time, Baranauskai Farm grew to 60 ha. Currently they are processing and distributing their products and expanding their activities, and refuse to stop doing so in the future.
Baranauskai farm has recently become a certified organic farm on which hemp is grown as the main product and Galloway cattle are bred. All hemp fibres are grown organically according to the guidelines of the public institution Ekoagra. Most of the time, farmers produce and sell only the raw material (dried hemp, its seeds and cattle). Therefore, this business model is easier to follow for newly established companies, because they can refer to already existing structures. However, in order to draw more attention to hemp and its production and to establish a relationship with customers, the farmers started to look for different methods of production and product distribution. They started to produce hemp products such as hemp tea and sell them at the farmer’s markets of Marijampole, in healthy food shops and during the city’s fairs and festivals.
Hemp was illegal in Lithuania for a very long time, but after legalisation, new farms were established. They chose this type of agriculture because they were very interested in the benefits of the plant: the nutritional value of the seeds, the oil, and other uses of the plant, such as shingles for construction and fibres for the textile industry. The organic cattle is the secondary activity of the farm, which is intended as a safeguard in case the hemp harvest is destroyed by heavy rains or droughts, which are currently more frequent.
The farmers use three-quarters of their land for sowing and growing hemp. The rest is used for grazing cattle and producing fodder, which is also organic.
Since the appearance of cannabis
fibres does not differ from that of cannabis containing drugs, farmers must
observe some restrictions. Smokers, however, could not use the plant, as it is
a special strain that does not contain intoxicating substances. In the cannabis
fibre used, the proportion of intoxicating substances is only 0.2 percent, in
medicine 5 to 15 percent. Farmers must document everything exactly when sowing:
what kind of seeds they use, all invoices, certificates etc. Each record can be
checked at any time, and separate records are kept of cannabis itself and
cannabis products (e.g. cannabis oil). The legal regulations for cannabis
production are much stricter than for crops, they have to report the start of
flowering at harvest, and the fields can be checked at any time.
Agriculture came into Egle´s life quite unexpectedly as an additional source of income. However, as time went by, agriculture became more and more profitable and she invested more time and energy in it.
Originally, Egle’s parents, who owned one of the most fertile lands in Suvalkija (southwest Lithuania), founded the farm. There they cultivated rape and wheat in the traditional way, using chemicals and fertilizers. Egle’s parents encouraged her and her husband to get involved in agriculture, especially since it was possible at that time to obtain EU subsidies for young farmers. Subsidies and parental support were the main factors that made it possible to start a farm. In contrast to Egle’s parents, they decided to opt for an organic production method. This was chosen mainly because of the special characteristics of the plants grown and their use as herbs. The farmers are also concerned about the effects of their actions and try to be sustainable.
In order to receive EU subsidies, the young farmers were to have 20 hectares of their own land, which they received as a gift from Egle’s parents; in addition, they rented another 20 hectares. This support enabled them to start their own farm. The second and very important milestone was EU support for the modernisation of the farm. Due to the EU support they were able to buy the necessary agricultural machinery. This opportunity enabled the farmers to start their business, but the experience of Egle’s parents, their guidance and connections were equally important. The young farmers learned as much as possible from their parents, but that was not enough, because they had no experience in growing hemp and using organic methods. Therefore, they had to find out how to grow hemp by themselves and had to learn from their own mistakes. They also got advice from the few farmers who started growing hemp in Lithuania at about the same time. In the beginning, they underestimated what it meant to grow hemp. They expected it to be easy to grow hemp, but in reality, it took them some time to learn how to cultivate the plant properly, because hemp is very sensitive to different methods.
Baranauskai Farm is a family business. The farmers are dependent on every resource they have and can use. Egle’s parents were one of the key contributors to the successful start of the farming business. Today, however, the young family is mainly dependent on their own profit and invests in the further development of the hemp farm. The farm at Baranauskai employs salaried workers and issues service vouchers for their work. These workers are permanent employees on the farm of Egle´s partents, so they know that they are reliable people who know their work.
Vaidas and Egle are looking for buyers at international exhibitions and fairs, cooperate with the Baltic Association of Fibre Growers and Processors and participate in various business seminars. Hemp is a very versatile plant, because all parts of it can be used. Parts of the plant are sold directly to buyers as raw material and other parts are used for production. The main markets of the products are Great Britain, Germany and Latvia. Latvians buy all the cannabis fibre, which is a valuable binder for construction. Furthermore, the fibres are used for paper production and the crushed stems are used in the oil industry.
The strategy of the company is that they want to have complete control over the whole production process, as the main goal is to produce good raw materials, prepare them properly for production, then keep the production technology intact, and package the products according to all requirements. The farmers not only sell the raw materials to the buyers, but also produce their own products and sell them at local farmer’s markets, in health food shops and etc. The hemp flowers are dried, in order to make tea out of them; the seeds are also dried and sold as a spice. It should also be mentioned that the secondary branch (Galloway cattle) of the farm is also important for securing the family income. If the harvest of the hemp plants turns out badly, the farmers always know that they have another source of income that can at least partly cover the costs. The farmers sell cattle or their meat.
For a very long time the cultivation of hemp was prohibited in Lithuania. The drug-free culture was only legitimized a few years ago. Vaidas and Egle were not afraid of the strict control of hemp and took the risk. The Baranauskai farm was able to get on board on time. They founded one of the first hemp farms in Lithuania and did not have much competition at that time. Therefore, they had to learn a lot about hemp cultivation by themselves. Now they have gained enough experience for further development and have made it their goal to use the plant from the root to the flower, which means that almost no by-product is created.
Furthermore, since in Lithuania cannabis production has been reviving again – the farm owners devote a lot of time to explain the full benefits of hemp for our health, to do product promotion and educational work. There is no special training program offered on the farm, but anyone who wants to know more about this plant is invited to come and talk to the owners over a cup of hemp flower tea and take a tour around the farm.
Vaidas and Egle are planning to expand their hemp fields, as the market is also expanding and demand is increasing not only on the Lithuanian but also on the international markets. In the farmhouse next to the house, the family is already completing the facilities for pressing cannabis oil. After purchasing a press, the farmers will be able to press the rich oils of essential omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 amino acids, which are very important for the body of every person. This oil will be distributed together with other hemp products that the farmers already produce.
Tips for the learner
- First, evaluate your options. Look through your network and start thinking what support you can receive and what you can offer in return. In this case, the two founders were lucky, because they had relatives already successful in the agriculture sector. However, this does not mean that this is the only way possible. Find the support you need for example by joining an association that provides support for farmers.
- Try to figure out all your options. For example, the EU supports young farmers, which can be very helpful for beginners.
- It is always advisable to start with small steps. If you do not have enough resources at the beginning, try to gather as much information as possible about the quality of your seeds and the appreciation of the market for the product you can offer. Get to know the natural conditions and the quality of the soil on which you carry out your farming activities and adapt yourself to these conditions. If your soil is not productive, you may consider diversification (e.g. livestock farming).
- If you want to establish direct marketing, try to get as close as possible to your customers. Get to know your customers, talk to them, and find out what they expect and what they prefer. This information is very valuable for you. The Baranauskai farm began their farming practice just after they already had collected knowledge about hemp and how it could be used, because this was very interesting for them.
- In addition, the most important thing – do not get discouraged and keep going. Especially the beginning is hard, but if you do not start working, you will not succeed. You must work towards your goal, whether your parents, brothers or sisters believe in you.
“We had no idea what farming really meant, how to drive the tractor or how to fertilize without pesticides. But that didn’t stop us from farming.”
Authors: Vytaute Monasteryckiene, Danguole Rutkauskiene