During our Danube Networkers trip to Hungary at the beginning of September 2016, we met Teréz at the market in Baja. She was selling dried herbs and invited us to visit her at her herb farm.
After the Danube Networkers left on the train back to Ulm, we rented a car and spent an additional week in Hungary. After a few days in Eger we decided to drive back to Pécs to learn more about the city and, on the way, to visit Teréz. She was a bit surprised that we had taken up her invitation so soon. Fortunately, our rental car was an SUV and we had no trouble driving the sandy and bumpy paths that led to her herb farm, well outside Baja.
Teréz, also called Teresa, told us her life story and showed us her farm. Teréz was born twenty kilometres (or twelve miles) away in Nadwar and was raised by her grandmother, who had german roots. Teréz told us that during her professional life in Austria she learned a lot about Sepp Holzer’s permaculture and studied a book by Eva Aschenbrenner, the herb expert from Kochel who died in 2013.
In 2007, Teréz could begin to realise her dream. She got nearly a hectare of land (about two and a half acres) and a rather scruffy property for a good price. Steadily, she redeveloped the house, bought a pump for the well and fitted solar panels and a storage battery. She refitted the large shed and recently installed a baking oven in the small shed. Teréz gets wild herbs from the nearly two and a half hectares (about six and a third acres) of meadow that she has leased from the local authority for twenty years.
She’s had a lot to learn. In the early years, Teréz couldn’t find a place in the market for her organically grown herbs. So she went back to work as a geriatric nurse for a few years in order to save money to keep her dream alive. Several years ago, organic agriculture and products found a place in the Hungarian market.
Teréz wants to be as self-sufficient as possible, so she also keeps some animals on her farm.
On her land, Teréz grows her own herbs and harvests wild ones. Among her assortment are thirty-eight culinary herbs and eight medicinal herbs. These include basil, elder, yarrow, toad-flax, goldenrod, shepherd’s purse, arabis and chickweed, to name a few. She also produces pumpkin oil.
Teréz dries and sells most of her herbs at markets in Hungary or on the internet.
Teréz hasn’t quite realised her full vision. She wants to enlarge the smaller shed with the baking oven so that she can give classes to school-children. The classes will be on organic agriculture and animal husbandry, the use of herbs and baking bread. The broad aim of the classes is to help children learn to value nature through increased familiarity.
The baking oven is wood-fired, but it can also be used to dry fruit using solar power. We go to witness the first attempt.
In her renovated and cosily furnished house, Teréz uses a magnificent stove for cooking and also for heating the house in colder weather.
Teréz is happy to be living as she wants and has, at fifty-nine, nearly fully realised her dream. An enviably satisfied woman.
(photographs an text: Dr. Wolfgang Doster,
optimisation of the English version: Eamonn O’Leary)