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Organic-Fair Farming Turkey Project Impressions & Reports

Respecting nature

Interview with Cemal Tahmaz, organic hazelnut grower at the Black Sea coast

Cemal Tahmaz was one of the first organic farmers in the Turkey Farming Project to supply Rapunzel with hazelnuts. In 1992, he got to know Rapunzel and was immediately taken with how the company was advancing the idea of organic farming. To this day, he is not only an organic farmer with a passion, but also a convinced contract farmer in the Rapunzel Turkey project. Cemal Tahmaz and his family live in Akçay, a village in the Terme district on the Black Sea coast. Our Turkish colleagues were visiting him and his family for an interview.
Organic farmer Cemal Tahmaz and his family – since 30 years in the Rapunzel Turkey Project out of conviction.
Organic farmer Cemal Tahmaz and his family – since 30 years in the Rapunzel Turkey Project out of conviction.
Organic farmer Cemal Tahmaz and his family – since 30 years in the Rapunzel Turkey Project out of conviction.
How was your first encounter with Rapunzel?

Cemal: At that time, I was already on fire for growing hazelnuts organically. When the Rapunzel consultants came to our region in 1992, I had the opportunity for an exchange. What was most important to me was that Rapunzel's goal in organic farming was to show more respect for nature. That was exactly what moved me, too. So I joined the Rapunzel project out of conviction.

What were the benefits of the cooperation with Rapunzel for you and for the region?

Cemal: In the first step, Rapunzel made us aware of the company's friendly and conscientious communication towards us farmers. Thanks to the cooperation with Rapunzel, we were pioneers in the organic cultivation of hazelnuts and a role model for others. Rapunzel has made a great contribution to the development of organic hazelnut production in the region.

It is not so easy to thoroughly grow hazelnuts in an organic way. It takes a lot of effort and time. Therefore it is helpful that Rapunzel constultants always provide us with information on how to optimize organic hazelnut production.
What are the major challenges of organic hazelnut cultivation?

Cemal: Sometimes, there are challenges ... One of them is the weather. If it rains during the drying period, it can cause mold and rot in the hazelnuts. In order to prevent this, we try to protect the hazelnuts from moisture as much as possible by covering them.

Which are the most important work steps that need to be done in hazelnut cultivation throughout the year?

Cemal: In the fall, we spread compost, as recommended by the Rapunzel consultants. Because compost releases nutrients slowly and thus improves soil fertility. This benefits the hazelnuts in the following years.

In the winter, we remove old branches and prune the hazelnut bushes. In June and July of the following year, mowing is the main task. With mowing, we keep the undergrowth low. This is important, especially for the harvest. Otherwise, the harvest would be quite difficult. Many hazelnuts fall from the tree when they are ripe and we collect them from the ground.

The harvest usually takes place in August. First, the harvested hazelnuts dry in their shells. Subsequently, we crack the shell and continue to dry the hazelnuts.
What do you particularly like about the cooperation with Rapunzel?
Cemal: Rapunzel always gives us clean bags for the harvested hazelnuts. In the next step, we bring the hazelnuts to the hazelnut cracking factory in Terme. There, the farmers and Rapunzel employees examine the harvested hazelnuts. At first, the hazelnuts are weighed in order to determine the exact harvest quantity. Then, samples are removed and mixed. This is important in order to find out the proportion of shell and kernel. Also the moisture content is measured. Finally, samples are cut open to see what the general quality of the hazelnuts is, what damage there may be, and so on.
The quality of the delivered hazelnuts affects the price of the hazelnuts. We have the freedom to decide ourselves when we want to sell our hazelnuts: Immediately after harvest when we deliver the hazelnuts to Terme, or later, when we find the hazelnut exchange price interesting. The hazelnut price is then set with the daily market price of the stock exchange. The quality of the hazelnuts also plays a role in this.

Rapunzel also pays us an organic premium. The entire sum is credited in total and punctually to our bank account after about a week - without delay. As farmers, we are extremely satisfied with this. The contact with the Rapunzel consultants is friendly, even cordial. This facilitates cooperation and strengthens our bond.
Rapunzel agricultural engineer Ahmet Ağca (l.) counsels organic farmer Cemal Tahmaz
Rapunzel agricultural engineer Ahmet Ağca (l.) counsels organic farmer Cemal Tahmaz
Rapunzel agricultural engineer Ahmet Ağca (l.) counsels organic farmer Cemal Tahmaz
What do you see as Rapunzel's advantage over other companies?

: Once a year, Rapunzel organizes a farmers' meeting in our region. At this meeting, Rapunzel gives the farmers training units in organic farming and we always discuss current information about organic farming. The Rapunzel employees listen to our problems and look for solutions with us.

In addition, we were invited - before the pandemic - to Rapunzel's processing plant in Ören near Izmir. There we got to know farmers from other Rapunzel project regions. Together, we toured the company. We were able to see how our products are processed. Rapunzel was an excellent host. I would like to thank Rapunzel for that.
Can you share with us a special experience with Rapunzel?

: In the city of Izmir, we once had a very special farmers' meeting. A representative of the organic farmers from each project region was invited. The farmers' meeting in Izmir took place during the fasting month of Ramadan. Rapunzel founder Joseph Wilhelm made sure that the meal times were adapted to the fasting period. This showed me the deep respect he has for Turkish culture. We were very pleased about that.

Will organic hazelnut cultivation on your property continue when you retire?

Cemal: Yes, through my wife Hatice, my son Arif and my daughter Ezgi. My children grew into organic farming from the very beginning because I work exclusively organically. My children, I hope, will continue our organic farming business.

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