Daniel Cheșa is 25 years old and lives in Lacu village from Geaca, Cluj county. He graduated the Faculty of Agriculture from University of Agricultural Science and Veterinary Medicine of Cluj in 2017, specializing in Exploitation engines and installations for agriculture and food industry. He is currently pursuing a Master program at Technical University Cluj and is the manager of the Cooperative of Cereal Producers Izvorul Fizeșului from Cătina. His story in agriculture begins before he finished the BA, when he started to lease several areas of land. Daniel got into farming out of necessity, which, through time became a real pleasure. The circumstances have been favorable for him because his family has an animal farm for which it was necessary to make feeding staff. Gradually, his parents were no longer forced to buy them because Daniel produced them. So he realized that he enjoyed being in the middle of things. His story continues as one of the youngest managers of cooperative from Romania.
What is like being a young farmer? Are you feeling privileged because you can innovate or do you find it a slow process because you need to prove to everybody else that you know what is all about?
Is not easy to be a young farmer, especially when you start from the bottom – without machinery and without your own land. You need courage, time, prudence and a dose of chance. You need advanced machinery to enhance agricultural production so you could become economically sustainable. As a young farmer, you have the possibility to access European funds which might help you a lot in your professional development. Is very important not to give up when you’re faced with difficulties. If you practice the agriculture for you, you need to prove yourself what you are capable of, and, if you have extraordinary results, you will certainly become recognized by those in your industry and be treated as such. If you work for somebody else, you definitely need to prove what you can do.
How do you see the Romanian agriculture today?
The agriculture is in need of more young people that would support the experienced ones and continue their work. Even though agriculture is a field which is hard to practice, when the results begin to appear, you might want to get involved more. Agriculture is constantly changing because of technology which is getting better every day. We have to be careful with the soil because is the most important resource we have. We must preserve the soil resources by any means available, through crop rotation and high-quality services.
How can agriculture become more attractive to young people?
There will always be people attracted by agriculture and people who won’t like this field. The attractiveness can be found in the performance of machinery and technological instruments from agriculture, reasons which contribute to the comfort and pleasure to work in this field. Indeed, there are benefits for young farmers, but if they will be easy to access, they will attract more young people to practice agriculture.
Besides what you’re doing now, you manage the Cooperative of Cereal Producers Izvorul Fizeșului from Cătina. How does agriculture, leadership, and management fit together?
We’re still at the beginning of the road and we have to learn to operate. We want to develop ourselves and to realize that we are stronger together than by their own account. Our common wish underlying the building of storage facilities to keep the products in good conditions, and, finally, to capitalize them at a better price.
What is the impact of a cooperative in a community? How much do the members cooperate and how much they are influenced by its way of function?
From what I’ve seen until now, is a slow process which involves changing some mindsets. The farmers do not understand that association is the best way to evolve – especially because it brings a lot of benefits. By the juxtaposition of member areas, you can achieve a big number of hectares and so you can benefit from a large discount for your acquisitions. This cannot happen when you have a small area. In a cooperative, we are sharing the purchasing of products and the prices become more accessible if we stand together and collaborate. The community should understand that a cooperative means a durable, profitable and sustainable solution through which you can thrive.
Even though there are over 1300 agricultural cooperatives in Romania, the process is still at the beginning of the road – In the early 2000s, new cooperatives have been created, designed to function according to a different philosophy than what people were used to believe when thinking about the concept. According to a study realized by UNCSV, Romania still faces difficulties in changing the current paradigm and mindsets. The number of existing cooperatives is small compared to France, where 75% of producers are members of a cooperative, or Germany, where 1 from 4 people are a member in such an organization.
Daniel is facing the people reluctance to such an initiative because of its past context and its meaning in the communist period. People, in general, are reluctant to everything new, at least until the moment they convince themselves about the functionality of something. At that moment, they become interested to get involved and to take advantage of the existing benefits. You need time to change this type of mindset.
However, last year in Romania was created 280 agricultural cooperatives, among which The cooperative „Izvorul Fizeșului” from Cătina.
Can we consider the cooperative a place for networking, change experience and know-how? How does that help in your daily activities?
The know-how and experiences represent an excellent method to sustain your professional development. We share a common goal: to perform and to get as many outcomes as possible from our work. Being directly involved, I can say that our cooperative represents the information engine which contributes to the improvement and development of my professional and agricultural performances.
How do you think the cooperatives will evolve? What are the trends in agriculture?
I believe more farmers will understand the role of cooperative and its role in the future of agriculture – they will join existing cooperatives or they will create new ones. If we’ll search for solutions for the future of agriculture, we will find them through accessing more European funds. Besides these aspects, an important problem is represented by the lack of operators and we should find solutions to attract more young people. The performance of agriculture lies in advanced machinery, digitalization, and professionalism. Regarding the soil tillage, the trends are moving increasingly to minimum tillage which can be realized with performant machinery. These aspects will make agriculture durable.
All in all, what are the most important reasons a farmer shall consider in deciding to get involved in such a structure of organization?
More people succeed more easy to achieve something than by their own account. The cooperative helps the farmers and gives them the opportunity to speak in a single voice by and can get noticed. The cooperative members benefit from all the advantages of this organizational structure, from the discounts for the common acquisition of the inputs to better prices for plant sales. The possibility to access European funds is an extraordinary opportunity through which farmers can develop projects and can participate in exchanging experiences.