The end of an internationally known organic demonstration farm and school?

I don’t write too often about political events that affect agriculture. First, I don’t know much about the topic and, second, I don’t have a genuine interest in it. In fact, I have a certain aversion to agriculture, most likely dating to my childhood and the very negative impressions I gained from occasional visits to poverty-stricken southern Baranya villages. That is probably also the reason for my negative feelings about the literature produced between the two world wars by writers who extolled the virtues of the Hungarian peasantry and its way of life. At a very early age I came to the conclusion that there was nothing wonderful about village life because it meant backwardness and poverty. Instead, I believed then and continue to believe now that we should eliminate the gaping differences between city and countryside.

Earlier we talked about the land-lease program that has been under way for a number of years. Parcels of lands owned by the state are leased for twenty years, allegedly to young farmers with initiative. In reality, in the most recent competitions many of the lots were handed over to Fidesz party faithfuls who had no experience in farming. One often heard about fairly prosperous farmers whose main source of income was animal husbandry but whose grazing land was taken away from them;  they were forced to sell their sheep or cows. There were heartbreaking stories of  poor people who applied to have their leases renewed but lost both their land and their livelihoods to politically connected applicants who could receive EU subsidies even if they left the land fallow.

One case really shook me. It was the fate of the Kishantos Rural Development Center, which includes a 452-hectare organic demonstration farm which has been in existence for twenty-one years. It began as a local grass-roots organization but grew and prospered with the help of German experts who helped design the farm. József Ángyán, a professor of agriculture at Gödöllő, Hungary’s agricultural college, was also heavily involved. In 1995 the center acquired a lease for a plot of land on which they established a school to teach young farmers about organic farming. The philosophy of Kishantos was rooted in the ideas of N. F. S. Grundtvig (1783-1872), author, poet, philosopher, and teacher. He was the ideological father of  “folk high schools,” educational centers for adult education. “Folk high schools” became popular in Hungary at the end of the 1930s and were revived right after 1945, but with the communist takeover they were forced to close their doors.

Over the years the Kishantos educational center developed ties with Danish and other European partners and organized international exchange programs. As the manager of Kishantos said, “the main goal of that program is to offer experiences for young Hungarians to learn about democracy and sustainability in practice.”

The school and the center are financed from the income the farm earns. But the lease for the 452 hectares of state-owned land expired on October 31, 2013.  The Hungarian Land Fund, representing the state, decided to put an end to the Kishantos organic farm and educational center. It put the acreage, cut up into ten different lots, on the auction block. It is clear that the Orbán regime wanted to ruin Kishantos.

The reason? There can be several. One is perhaps József Ángyán’s involvement in the project. Viktor Orbán promised Ángyán an agricultural strategy based on small family farming.  Ángyán was pleased that his ideas would become reality and therefore accepted Viktor Orbán’s offer of a seat in parliament.  Soon enough, however, Ángyán became disillusioned and turned against the Orbán government’s distribution scheme for state land. The second reason might be that the project’s philosophy does not mesh with Viktor Orbán’s ideas about the Hungarian ethos. Kishantos is dedicated to “spreading the idea of sustainability and democracy.” The founders claim that Kishantos is “the only project in Europe where sustainable agriculture, ecological farming, education and democracy have been functioning together in perfect harmony.” Not exactly the kind of philosophy the Fidesz folks would be terribly keen on.

Sunflowers in the good old days in Kishantos

Sunflowers in the good old days in Kishantos

Kishantos applied for all ten lots but were unsuccessful. They received none of the land they had cultivated for the past two decades. The farm’s management appealed the decision. Although there was no verdict by the time the spring seeds had to be sowed, they decided that the land shouldn’t remain fallow while litigation was underway. Therefore they opted to go ahead with the planting. Their reasoning was that if they win the case they will have their usual crop and if the new owners win they will be the beneficiaries of the Kishantos people’s labor. Well, this is not how the new owners saw things. A week before Easter several tractors arrived and harrowed under the plants that were already green. One rarely can see such barbarity. What kinds of owners would these people be who could destroy acres and acres of young seedlings? The whole thing is outrageous.

The harrowing of the fall crop is under way

So much for the tender seedlings

Well, the crop is gone, but this may not be the end of the story. Kishantos’s fate remains in the hands of the courts and early indications are favorable. I for one very much hope that Kishantos will stay and prosper.


  1. Destroying this farm was an utterly reprehensible act by the new owners and you’d have to be dumb not to see political motivation behind it.

    Hungary actually has a good organic farming sector and it could provide a sound basis for the rural economy.

    You can run and organic farm profitably with no subsidies, so it’s ideal for moving the farming economy away from dependence on EU subsidy and the associated corruption.

    So to destroy this farm was a disgraceful act of wanton vandalism. It speaks volumes about the people. involved.

  2. THe last few weeks (I assume because of the election) Hungarian Spectrum got its share of very dumb commenters. Why am I calling them dumb? Because they came on this site and their message was always identical without any substance. It very much said: every other party than Fidesz are descendants of communists, who try to rob the Hungarians.
    I would also like to remind everyone for a few lines of the poem that was recited before Orban took the stage on the last Fidesz gathering before the elections. This was the poem that Fidesz threatened everyone who would for any other party than Fidesz. In the poem they claimed that the the oppositions is:
    “The same robbing the country,
    Who drove your cattle to the co-operatives!
    They put all of yours in the common.
    So now they can divide between each other while laughing.”
    I asked those great supporters of Fidesz at the time, but never received any answers from our usual Fidesz friends, and either from our dumb commenters (I would like to add our Rev. to that list now): Who are the current “communists”? WHo are the ones who take away the land? OK, they do not put them into co-operatives, so they are not communists. Who are the ones who took away the businesses (tobacco shops)? THey give it out to their friends! How do you like this Rev A W Kovacs instead of the big, bad communists?

  3. The media has been saturated with anti-communist and anti-liberal lies and propaganda.
    Lenin Stalin would blush by such amateur deceit.
    Leading brain Bayer is out of control.
    Stupid millions have been captivated. They are easy prey.
    Hungary became a pariah nation again.
    Blame the conservative intelligentsia.

  4. This is the world of Barbárok (a short story by Zsigmond Móricz) or Puszták Népe (Gyula Illyés). Nothing’s changed since 1931. Some people have cars now, but that is it.

    Remember that nobody from the village uttered a peep. Rural people will not take part in any politics. This is a liberal myth. Rural people, just like those in, say, Afghanistan cannot be taught modern politics, constitutionalism, self-government, Western-style democracy, this is not their reality and never has been. It is not because they are inherently incapable of democracy, but in their reality these issues have no relevance, this is not how they were socialized. In a way these people live outside state and history. Fidesz and Jobbik realized that, the Hungarian Left just does not want to wake up from its post-1990 dreams.

    Destruction of the crops and the organic nature of the estate was an example, a not so subtle symbol. It was to teach people. This is the way to teach people in Hungary. It is very effective and more and more so. While in 1998-2002 people got upset if Fidesz punished their municipality for voting left (when Fidesz was in power), these days people know better. It does not even cross people’s minds to vote for other than Fidesz, otherwise they will fall immediately behind compared to their smarter neighboring town. The lesson has been taught. Not that they would like the democratic opposition.

    Nobody dares to mount any resistance in rural places (outside Budapest) because they instinctively know that nobody can defend them. I mean will MSZP or Együtt defend these people? How? They will not, of course, because, among others, they do not even have the means and the rural people, who know how to survive, know this. As a result they will not even think about resistance even if there was a reason.

    If somebody has the power behind it (Fidesz) then it can and – more importantly – will destroy any opposition.

    There is no debate, there are no arguments, just power.

    If somebody has power and decides to destroy you then he/she will. People must respect and internalize that reality.

    I think rural people all over Hungary got the message.

    Good, mission accomplished. But, hey, people voted for that, so what’s the big fuss about it?

  5. One of the great heroes of the 1848 revolutions was Joseph Goldmark, who grew up in Keszthely (he supported his younger brother, Goldmark Karóly, the musical voice of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for the last third of the 19th Century). Joseph had many famous children, including Josephine Goldmark, one of the great unknown intellectuals on the 20th Century. She wrote several important books, including “Democracy in Denmark.” I think she wrote this book to celebrate the best of 1848 as they became manifest in Denmark.

    So these ideals were realized Denmark, and then were transplanted back into Hungary in the 1930s- only to be destroyed by Fidesz in 2014. Good job, Viktor. Maybe next you want to team up with the country that squashed Hungary after 1848, and after WWII and after 1956.

  6. We haven’t heard anything about this on the news – though I have to confess that we watch tv news only once or twice a week, they’re so disgusting …

    Does anyone know how the media in general handled this craziness/wilful and deliberate destruction? Did they report on it at all?

  7. wolfi: on the internet news sites there were hundreds of reports, videos, articles. The story has been going on for months.

    However the internet in Hungary is really for about 1-1.5m people (many of home are religiously fideszniks, even if they read the news of corruption or power-madness), the rest only check it out once a week or less.

    On radio or TV both of which media are essentially owned by Fidesz there has not been anything.

    Lock over media works. It worked in Italy, it works in Russia.

    Only naive lefty people who believed their own techno-loving ideology could have thought that only internet counts these days (and of course it does not take much to own and control internet either).

  8. “People must respect and internalize that reality.”

    The day that I respect Orban’s regime and the assorted filth that operates it will be the day that I know the scumbag has finally won.

    Mussolini ended up swinging from a lamppost, Ceaucesceu got a bullet through his skull- nobody would have predicted either end… no dictator lasts forever.

  9. “the lease for the land expired on October 31, 2013.”

    Did I get into a time machine? What date is it? Did everyone go mad and crazy? I thought it is well into 2014 now, so what the hell is going on??

    Or are you so crazy that you think it is OK to use another’s property without a valid lease? A valid contract? That is pure criminality, nothing else, using someone else’s property without a valid contract is called squatting. How would you feel if I moved into your house without a valid lease, or didn’t move out when my lease expired. And then started treating the house as my own, and sued YOU (the owner of the house). Or I ask to use your car as a favor for a month and then when the month is up I continue using the car. And I say to you, the car is in my possession now, I have such and such rights, if you want your car we will meet in court. While the case is pending I will continue using the car, OK?

    And you people who have this sort of criminal level morality wonder why you and your ilk lost the election. Breathtaking. I hope some day people come to your houses without valid leases and continue to stay there while “the court case is pending”. Maybe start doing renovations on your house to further bolster the claim that your house is really theirs. Sometimes you are really really crazy altogether.

    Whatever is stopping any of these people to buy land and then they create whatever great farm they want on their own land? In the past 25 years they could have bought 10 000 hectares of land with the profits from the original venture, if it were profitable during 25 or however many years. Where are the profits, why are they are not invested land? Were the profits stolen, or were none to begin with? Why are the hard questions not being asked?

  10. @torrente: Kishantos being a non-profit project, your rant about profit is definitely irrelevant.

    And while I do agree that the new tenants probably had every right to do what they pleased with the land, I also think the only “hard question” is: why wasn’t the lease renewed in the first place?

  11. torrente:

    you smart fidesznik. Don’t get so worked up, if you no nothing about the story.

    This may be hard for you to get ‘cos you probably own your apartment (btw did you buy it or did you inherit it?). But most people in the West (except for the US) leases it:

    Imagine you lived in a state-owned apartment for 20 years. You renovated the building, kept it in orderly fashion and hoped that you will continue to rent the apartment when the lease comes up for renewal. The state also promised openly that those small lessees, with small salaries will have a preference. Instead, here comes the neighborhood loan-shark who everybody knows is the local head of the party (just like in Pakistan or Sierra Leone) who is in government and somehow gets the new lease, you can get lost. This is what happened to Kishantos.

    Surprize-surprize, the local Fidesz party oligarch, the local strongman and his cronies (already managing well over 9,000 hectars, about 1,8000 acres) won the Kishantos plot despite the fact that the government was supposed to prefer farmers managing small plots.

    There is no land available in the region, because the local boss and his 3-4 friends (all die-hard fideszniks) essentially own all the land in the county. It is not like you go to your local Mercedes dealer and purchase a new model with your cash.

    In addition, one would think that given that an organic certification takes years to obtain but can be lost in a minute (once you start using chemicals), the government – perhaps in the name of promoting sustainability – honors at least its own word.

    The point is the government managed the auctions of land so that the land plot (including Kishantos) surprize-surprize always, without fail went to the local land oligarchy which channels money back to Fidesz.

    Is this natural? Is this fair? Is this normal?

    Should we accept these?

    These deeply corrupt land auctions just because Fidesz can provide all the legal paperwork (lepapirozás) behind them?

  12. As a matter of fact, I have a supplementary question: unless I’m wrong, there was no delay between the results of the tender and the actual termination of the lease.

    It seems quite absurd to me, considering both the duration of the lease and the planned nature of the activity… Shouldn’t the tender results have been proclaimed at least one year before the end of the term?

  13. I understand that Kishantos contested the whole procedure and refused to sign the contract which would have ended their lease. That’s why the new owners had no standing when they sued the organic farm on the account of trespassing.

  14. To smart The Reverend Szabo. As with your previous rants, you fail to acknowledge some FACTS. (Most of those pop-up posters, and our regular Fideszniks do, so do not panic.) Fidesz way back promised that those who most suited to the land leases will get the land. Most suited means that they have experience with agriculture for example. (Let me give you an example” You are a reverend in a church, then they move you to an other church and so your position is taken by Janos Lazar for example as the new reverend.)
    Fidesz also promised that the land leases will go to people who live in the area of the given property. (Let me give you an other example, based on your church. You are let go as a reverend just to be replaced by someone from Budapest. He will start services via Skype.) Contrary the Fidesz’ promises the land was given to people who live far away.
    Everyone should obey the law (not a new concept), and when is a legal dispute going on, you cannot just do whatever you feel like. (Not even a reverend, not even the Prime Minister).
    As far as law goes, the local court decided in favour of Kishantos, and not in favour of the new tenants.
    I hope this can clarify things for you!

  15. @ wolfi A few times people mentioned here Kishantos, I did enter some info back on April 12 when there was a Blog entry was posted about the poem that threatened everyone who did not vote for Fidesz was celebrated by Orban.
    “By the way, Jozsef Angyan the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Rural Development resigned in 2012 because of the unfulfilled promises, the cheats and deception of Fidesz regarding farming. His conscience did not allow him to stay on the job.
    The Nemzetkozi Foldalapkezelo Szervezet is a Orban’s right hand organization that is responsible to take back and give out the lands to whomever they feel like. Their dealings are very suspicious, and there are dozens of complaints and court documents filed against the organization.
    One more thing to the Reverend:
    Do you know what is the difference between the “communists” and Fidesz?
    THe communists put everything in the co-ops (true) while Fidesz distributes everything to their friends. I guess you prefer the later!

  16. some1 and rev szabo are on the same side.
    rev szabo deserves our thanks for joining our ranks.
    the lepapirozas is a keyword in the fidesz clique illegal self-enrichment.
    hungary is a funeral parlor in this days.
    all words are not enough to save it from this regime.

  17. Back to organic farming. I don’t recall the last time I was grocery shopping in Hungary seeing many if any fresh fruits and vegetables marked “szerves” or organic. I assume the EU has strict standards on the use of the organic title. Has this changed in the last couple of years?

    Lastly here in the USA products produced under strict organic standards are much more expensive than non-organic products. Is there really an internal market for these products in Hungary and is this really an export area of production? In in the USA the food market chain Whole Foods markets organic products and is so expensive that it’s common nickname is whole paycheck.

  18. Bio indeed does indeed include organic. It also includes a number of other things that might not be organic but would be considered “healthy” choices according to some definition of healthy

  19. Around 15 years ago, organic products could only be bought in special health food stores in Hungary (and are still available there). Ordinary grocery stores did not normally carry them. I read then that something like 95% of organic produce in Hungary was exported, mostly to Germany. (I don’t know what the numbers are now.)

    But then a “biópiac” (organic market) sprung up on a biweekly basis on Marczibányi tér in Budapest, which got quite crowded. Now there are several of these regularly held in the capital, and some in other Hungarian cities too. So I think the market has definitely grown. And some stuff is now available in regular supermarkets as well. For example, you can get organic coffee at Spar supermarkets, which definitely tastes better than regular coffee (and is better for you too, since coffee, like tea, is typically heavily sprayed with chemicals).

    I like organic products a lot, except for organic wine. I haven’t yet had a bottle of organic wine that was any good.

  20. Istvan: “Lastly here in the USA products produced under strict organic standards are much more expensive than non-organic products. Is there really an internal market for these products in Hungary and is this really an export area of production? In in the USA the food market chain Whole Foods markets organic products and is so expensive that it’s common nickname is whole paycheck.”

    You can go into any Fred Meyer or Safeway supermarket and they have whole isles of dry and fresh organic products. And lately even Walmart started selling them. The organic produce is more expensive because one cannot get the same yield without using chemicals in the field.

  21. It’s interesting in Torrente’s “harrowing” comment how he thinks about property. He writes about “another’s property” when it comes to state property. Notice this is a very typical Fidesz supporter treat. The state government owns the country not the people. So “Orban giveth and Orban taketh away” … and giveth to his righteous brothers. This is their so called law.

  22. The question in all these points is this: why isn’t the Hungarian society up to recognizing
    the illegality, and the unfairness, in all that Fidesz does?

    In Berlin, “thousands block far-right march…” One can measure the difference in the two societies by noting how far away Hungarians are from a similar moral stance.

  23. A ‘for instance’ for the above: how many grocery store owners were ruined when tobacco
    sales were taken away from them without any compensation; and how many people supported them?

  24. Eva S. Balogh :
    I understand that Kishantos contested the whole procedure and refused to sign the contract which would have ended their lease. That’s why the new owners had no standing when they sued the organic farm on the account of trespassing.

    That’s what the local court ruled, isn’t it?

    But as far as the timeline of the whole process goes, I couldn’t find anything else than a one month delay beetween the moment the lessee learned they had lost the tender, and the termination of the lease. Quite odd.

  25. Germany and Hungary are not on the same planet.
    The Navrasich and Maria Schmidt whinings are new stains on Hungary’s reputation.
    I think they had to present their lies while no MAZSIHISZ rep was present.

  26. @TemetesMindenNap
    April 27, 2014 at 9:14 am Quote
    some1 and rev szabo are on the same side.

    What the heck are you talking about? Rev Szabo is anti-semite, a Fidesz supporter, lover of anything but democracy, and very confused individual. i am anything but a Fidesz friend, I am against taking away the land that Szabo supports, and so forth.
    Maybe you should expend on what made you remotely think that I am on the same side with Szabo, who I actually despise.

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