We can say so after our study trip to Latvia from October 3rd to 6th. The trip took place in framework of the cooperation project “Sustainable entrepreneurship in countryside“ and we visited two local action groups (LAG) at Lielupe (around Jelgava) and Liepaja microenterprises. Our thoughts were very well assembled by Karin Koort form Sannman OÜ.

But now about our trip.

Karin Koort:

30 people, who are involved in small entrepreneurship in one way or another, visited Latvia. Our crew was very diverse. There were vegetable growers, local cider brewers, cooks, cafeteria owners and other people full of initiative, who advance life in countryside with their everyday actions. The programme of the study trip was impressive. Although we did not have much time, we managed to visit almost twenty small enterprises. While looking back now, we must say that all visits were memorable, but as always some can shine brighter than others. Now is a good moment to bring out the ones which spotted the eye with their unique ideas, products or marketing.

In terms of products, Latvia can surprise. One of their unique products for sure is Pupuchi or beanchips „pupas“ in Latvian means – bean and the word „chips“ comes from English. Instead of potatoes and nuts they make chips from beans, which have more protein and of course are healthier. To those, who are not fond of beans, I can ensure, that it is a very good snack, they have both salty and sweet tastes. Active Latvians have found original and tasty output to their legume. At the moment the product can be bought only in Latvia, but they are taking steps towards external market, we are waiting for beanchips’ success in Estonia!

Lolitas Duge’s “House of Mint”, www.lavendervilla.ee and local shiitake mushroom growers deserve special attention, too. About mint – who from us doesn’t know it, but human resoucefulness can be quite surprising. To turn something so ordinary into a working enterprise is amazing! The hostess’es home, where the mint field is and an exhibition of products in special mint house, gets extra points. It is definitely a place to go to!

Shiitake mushrooms and lavender sound more exotic than mint. Everybody knows abot lavender’s calming influence, but how many of us have seen the lavender field with their own eyes and in Latvia, the country with quite northern climate? We had this rare opportunity. The scent of verdant lavender bushes all around the field, stayed brightly in our minds from this trip.

„Shiitake“ comes from Japanese word „shi“ which means wood/tree, where these mushrooms grow in their natural environment and „taki“ means mushroom, so a „mushroom tree“. It was very interesting to see such a mushroom tree forest with our own eyes, but even more intriguing was the story of creating this enterprise, with many failures, but also with active learning process. Today the owner of this enterprise can proudly show the mushroom trees and all we can say is – consistency gets you to the goal.

We also visited a winery http://aizputesvins.lv/ , which at the moment looked like a wine cellar more than a winery, but the content and product counts, not the conditions. To tell the truth fruit or berry wine has never been my favorite, but I can respect good marketing and skillful presentation. No doubt, the most colorful person was a wine maker from a small town in Latvia, who won the approval of the listeners with his good language and interesting stories. He was the best brand of his enterprise, he simply makes the best wine in Latvia! I belive that at the end of the day nobody in our company had any more doubts about that. My personal sceptichism about fruit wine is gone and I left the winery with two bottles of berry wine happily clinking in my bag. So, good presentation, faith into your product as into the best there can be, makes a good ground to marketing and can break the biggest myths, I experienced it directly and very closely.

And finally… I can not keep my silence. Our bus drove away from Jelgava on a bumpy road towards an ancient manor. While looking at these old buildings, many of us have probably secretly dreamed about personal manor house with stone walls, aristocratic manor park, wonderful parties… But how many of us would dare to buy a manor for real? Manors do not cost much, keeping it alive costs your life and soul, because otherwise the purchase would be meaningless. That was the decision a young Latvian family made, who besides 70 000 € gave away their life and soul www.abgunste.lv. The manor was in really bad condition at the moment of purchase, it became clear to the young family that in order to get it renovated they must sell the apartment in the city and move there… for good. And this is how a story of renovating an old manor house began. Our company was honored to spend some time there, to get to know the hosts, their undertakings and the facilities. What this young family has done is fantastic. I personally was charmed by this family`s enthusiasm and will, not they only had good ideas, but they were able to carry them out. New was also the purpose of the manor in renovation – art and design, accommodation and parties come as a natural part of the manor, but „creativity and art of all kinds“ went through the whole house as a red line.

Beside that ,we visited several small entrepreneurs, includung horse stables and a goat farm. We made bread togehter with Latvians, tasted different types of local honey and got a share in Latvian traditions.

Our time in Latvia went by very quickly and we were never bored. This fact-finding trip gave new ideas and confirmed our already existing thoughts and experiences. Life in Latvia is quite similar to us, but a bit different and sharing the know-how is certainly necessary.

Aizputes Vins host Martins introducing his drinks

Mushroom growing

Discussions with Peppermint Lady

Bean products

Lavender Villa presentation

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