Turkish hazelnut farmers Orhan Güler and Özer Akbaşlı are both keen on improving farming methods and sustainability. They are happy to have joined up to the UTZ hazelnuts program, and hope to set an example to other farmers in the area. We chatted to them as they gathered in their latest harvest.
“I am a happy and proud hazelnut farmer, who could sleep in between his orchards, I am in love with my job.”
Orhan, 54, was born and raised on his family’s 10-hectare hazelnut farm. For the last 20 years he has sold his hazelnuts to Poyraz & Poyraz, a local processing and trading company working with farmers to introduce sustainability to the sector through UTZ certification.
Orhan is a passionate and proud farmer. When he is not working on his hazelnut fields he is making honey, his second source of income. He is eager to learn new agricultural techniques to improve the quality and quantity of his harvests. “I have been using the same techniques for the last 15 years and now think it’s time for change,” he says. “When Poyraz & Poyraz comes and teaches us new UTZ techniques I get enthusiastic.”
I have been using the same techniques for the last 15 years and now think it’s time for change,
He admits that following certification has been challenging and requires financial investment, but he is already seeing advantages. He previously used some of the practices he is now learning, but he didn’t know why they were so important. Now that he knows more about the benefits of good agricultural practices he is eager to learn more.
“My motto is: my bread includes the labor of my workers. If I’m able to earn my bread, it’s because of the hard work of these people. So I have to respect that labor and I have to fulfill all their social and economic needs.”
Özer runs the family farm, founded in 1984 by his father. “My family has been involved in hazelnut farming for about 400 years. I am one of the pioneers helping to prevent child labor in hazelnut farming in Turkey,” he says. Indeed, near the farm’s covered dining terrace is a sign with the words ‘Bizim Bahcede Cocuklar Calismiyor’, Turkish for: ‘children are not working in our garden’.
“We ask to see workers’ ID cards and if there is anyone with an inappropriate age, I don’t allow them to work,” he says. “I tell them, ‘don’t go to the orchard, stay here. I know you are a student, you come here to earn money for your education. When you go back we will give you some pocket money, which you can use to pay for the expenses for your education’.”
Özer also believes in offering his workers better living and working conditions, with good rooms, enough food and transport to the village. Many workers come back to his orchard every year.
“If you provide people with the facilities they deserve, their performance will improve,” he says. “By providing our workers with good working conditions we have benefited a lot. We also don’t experience a feeling of guilt any more. We are very relieved compared to the past.”
If you provide people with the facilities they deserve, their performance will improve.
Özer was one of the first farmers who joined the UTZ program in 2014. “After meeting UTZ for the first time we shared our years of experience with them, because we believe that UTZ will continuously make a contribution to farmers’ businesses,” he says.
Setting an example
Orhan and Özer are some of the more unique farmers in the Turkish hazelnut sector. Many farmers do not live on their farm and have additional sources of income alongside hazelnuts. As Orhan and Özer farm more efficiently, we hope they can set an example and help other farmers see the benefits, encouraging them to become certified themselves. In this way, together we can make a difference in the hazelnut sector over the coming years.
Download testimonials of Orhan and Özer to use in your communication.