Farmer’s Special Edition

Reaping wheat old style and leaving in windrow

As we drove through central and western Turkey, I was absorbed in the changing agricultural landscape. Agriculture is the largest contributor to the national GDP at 27%, followed by tourism, automobile construction and textiles in that order. Turkey is also self sufficient in it’s agricultural production. The diversity of crops was impressive but I was surprised not to see more livestock. I did see a few mobs of cattle, sheep and goats being shepherded, as there were very few fences, and I did see quite a bit of lucerne which would have been for livestock production of some sort.

As we drove from Ankara down into the Cappadocia region, we passed through large areas of dry land wheat, barley and sunflowers, which was consistent with what I remember from my school days of being surprised that Turkey despite its relative size was a major contributor to the world wheat production. The country farmed was undulating and in places quite steep slopes were being farmed without any significant erosion prevention. I assume that a lot of their moisture may come from winter snow and so rapid runoff my not be as big an issue. A lot of the wheat had been or was being harvested. In this area there seemed to be a lot of contract harvesters using by our standards small headers with small combs, I guess needed to give them the flexibility to do the small plots of which there are many. New Holland seems to have the lion’s share of the header market.

Having said that there was still quite a bit being mechanically cut into piles and then thrashed by stationary machines. I even saw a sickle in one farmer’s hand, probably to get few patches missed! I was fascinated by these old practices and couldn’t resist asking our driver to pull over so I could get a closer up photo of a little tractor and reaping machine (Dad, you would know the proper term or name for it). One of them had Hasan Dagi one the major extinct volcanoes in the Cappadocia region in the back ground.  These few photos are some of my favourites of our Turkey trip, as they show a real facet of rural Turkish life.

Reaping wheat, old style. Hagan Dagi (old volcano) in the background

Potatoes were also a major crop in the Cappadocia region where we sent three nights at Goreme. It was also here that Naomi and I went and met an elderly farming couple picking apricots and pears on there little patch, who were keen to show us there pumpkins that they grow just for the seeds to eat. They also insisted on filling up my hat with apricots and were fascinated with Naomi’s braces on her teeth. The next morning I met up with a shepherd with his small flock of goats and sheep and was only too happy for a few photos, and then to ask for some money, which I was happy enough to give as I was able to record another aspect of rural Turkey.

sheperd with sheep and goats, Goreme. Note hot air balloon in the background

Nomi and an elderly lady with my hat full of apricots, Goreme

A unique feature in this region is how they produce fertiliser for their vine yards and apricot trees. The fairy chimneys and tufa rock cliffs unique to Cappadocia are full of Pigeon Houses or Dovecuts high up in seeming inaccessible places that have been there for centuries. They consist of rooms with wall full of little recesses cut out of the soft tufa rock with a few small entry holes that only the pigeons can get through.   They are built to attract the pigeons to nest in them and over time they collect a lot of pigeon droppings which is used as a fertiliser for the numerous vine yards squeezed into every little nock around these tufa rocks. Entry into these rooms is generally via a little door at the base of the room or a tunnel further down the cliff face with a door that stops cats and birds of prey gaining entry. The amazing thing is how precarious  the entry to these concealed rooms are and even our guide wondered how many people had died from falls getting up to them.

Pigeon houses some not in use as access holes are now open. Note ladder to gain access to lower houses.

grapevines in Red Valley, Cappodocia grown without trellises so they can prune them heavily and cover with soil for winter.

From Goreme to Konya as well as the dry land farming there was also quite a lot of irrigation both from underground sources and a few major dams. In addition to the wheat and sunflowers there was a lot of maize, cotton and also sugar beets for sugar.

Once we passed over the major range out of Konya and entered the Mediterranean climate there was an incredible diversity of crops from maize and cotton to horticulture like melons and orchards of pomegranates, peaches and acres of green houses growing tomatoes, cucumbers, chilli etc. The number of green houses kept increasing as we moved along the Mediterranean coast. They are mainly made with a clear plastic covering and a lot have a basic type of drum furnace using wood for fuel to heat them in the winter months.

sea of glasshouses – Demre (old Myria) on Mediterrean coast between Antalya and Kas (said Karsh)

Away from the coastal strip, the valley between the ancient ruins of Hierapolis and Laodicea was as fertile as I had seen with cotton, maize, Lucerne, pomegranates, plums and much more. As we moved out of the valley on our way to Selcuk (Ephesus), figs and olives dominated the country side. The country side up the Aegean Coast to Troy was no less diverse with peaches, melons, tomatoes, sunflowers, and wheat and hybrid maize seed crops.

The Gallipoli Peninsula also had extensive wheat, maize and sunflower crops. At one point near the base of the peninsula we even passed through rice fields.

In the middle of this diversity there was at least one common denominator, that of the little 60-80 hp tractor with the good old Massey Fergerson being well represented. The Fiat and New Holland were probably not far behind. In Australia we have our tractors, body truck, family car and farm ute. In Turkey the little Fergie is all of these. I wonder if they have ever heard the “Beaut little Fergie tractor” song?

Me and my beut little Furgy tractor – center of Selcuk (Ephesus)

The diversity of the agriculture and seeing all the Fergie tractors made me feel right a home, and seeing them parked in the main streets of towns made me think how we could streamline our capital expenditure! We may have to, if we are going to compete internationally!


6 thoughts on “Farmer’s Special Edition

  1. Peter just loved this side of your trip – along with your day on the boat these would have to be my favourite photos of all you have posted. The Fergie parked down town reminded me of our Nyora days where you would see the drive on mowers parked at the local pub!!

    • ha ha – I’d forgotten that part of Nyora life!! It took a while for the guide and driver to catch on that Pete was vividly interested in the agriculture and then it became a bit of a joke and they knew that Peter would want a photo of every tractor we came across! Not sure they had had a farmer as such in their tours before!

  2. Now I am not being sarcastic when I say that I just loved this post. (There must still be a little bit of farmer left in me!) Full of interesting bits and pieces. The fertilizer was particularly interesting for the girls and I. Burying the vines in winter??? Well I never!! The best part though was the photo of the trip so far. I just loved Nomi with your hat full of goodies and the delightful old lady next to her. Brilliant.

    • Sorry mate but not many John Deere tractors, but were a few JD Headers! Yes they prune the vines back severly before the winter and bury with the very liht soil. It does snow there. Peter

  3. Sounds interesting Uncle Peter
    The photos are terrific
    Look forward to catching up an hearing all details when you get back

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