Image for The Slovakian market gardener who grows vegetables from around the world

The Slovakian market gardener who grows vegetables from around the world

Zuzana Pastorková grows a rainbow array of vegetables in her garden in Slovakia, sending produce to the capital, Bratislava

Zuzana Pastorková grows a rainbow array of vegetables in her garden in Slovakia, sending produce to the capital, Bratislava

People, not production lines. Farms, not factories. Agriculture, not agri-business. From ice covered northern Sweden to the depths of the Amazon rainforest, the following stories tell of the men, women and families who supply 70 per cent of the world’s food. They challenge the myth that we need industrial agriculture to feed an increasing population. Could small-scale farming offer solutions to the planetary crises we face – from climate disruption to species mass extinction? 

Reproduced from We Feed the World, an exhibition by the Gaia Foundation.

Along the river Váh, an hour from Slovakia’s capital Bratislava, lies the small village of Dlha nad Vahom. Zuzana Pastorková spent her childhood summers here, staying in her grandmother’s communist-style bungalow, before leaving to work on luxury yachts around Europe.

When Pastorková returned home seven years ago, she wanted to grow food that carried the flavour and traditions of the vegetables she remembered from her youth. So she set about creating a market garden and running a community supported agriculture project from the seeds and cuttings given to her by local people.

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Despite her family’s protestations to find a job ‘better suited to a woman’, Pastorková now cultivates 40 varieties of vegetables, 10 types of herbs and many different varieties of fruit, all of which she packs into boxes and sends to 60 families in Bratislava.

Some 70 per cent of this food she grows from seed – seeds that have either been handed down to her by village elders or that she has sourced from her travels. Her quarter of an acre now boasts beans from Ireland, herbs from Hungary, onions from Romania and pumpkins from Cyprus.

“This is very different to industrial agriculture,” says Pastorková. “It’s about being in tune with nature and learning from it and being part of it. The magic and mystery are so important. To understand what’s happening in nature, you have to be quiet and observe, and then the answers emerge on their own.”

Image: Zuzana Pastorková in her market garden in Slovakia. The produce is sent to the capital, Bratislava

In photos: Zuzana Pastorková's garden in Slovakia

Photography by Tina Hillier

Small is beautiful: the smallholder farmers fighting climate change around the world

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