An association of cheese producers and eaters which promotes autonomous peasant farming and supports new entrants to farming in Lithuania.
12 active members
10 farmers supported
3 markets started
more than 200 annual workshop hours
Viva Sol (VS), an association of cheese producers and eaters, was established in 2006, with the task of maintaining solidarity between the country and the city and to encourage the settlement of small farmers. Viva Sol believes that a renaissance of rural Lithuania will come from economically, socially and environmentally sustainable forms of farming and the newcomers that this will attract, who are often more open to local, sustainable agriculture.
Two of the founders of Viva Sol are farmers who were newcomers to farming but who had previous business experience outside of farming and outside Lithuania. They chose to establish themselves as farmers and to adopt a peasant approach to farming based on small-scale production, limited inputs, environmentally-friendly production practices, and strong links with consumers and local inhabitants.
Viva Sol’s headquarters are in Dargužiai village, 50km south of Vilnius, where the farm of Valdas and Rasa Kavaliauskas, two of the association’s activists, is based.
Viva Sol is an association. It is the most basic form of collective activity, chosen because of the simplicity of registration procedures and low maintenance costs. Viva Sol can operate on the basis of volunteer work, not employing a single person, which is very useful for the members, who are mostly farmers.
In today’s Lithuania, fostering a connection between city and country means supporting farmers. Viva Sol has synthesised its work into three main directions to answer the needs of small farmers:
Sales is currently the most developed part of Viva Sol’s work. Over the past four years, 9 farms have benefited from help: 4 newcomers and 5 established farmers (who have been farming for more than 10 years). The Cheese Market in Vilnius, which celebrated its 8th birthday in autumn 2014, is the main income source for five cheese-makers, a baker and a few more artisans. It also served as a stepping-stone for five more farmers and is a great example to many others. Viva Sol also started a box scheme in Vilnius as well as founding the Cheese-Makers’ Home, a farmshop, restaurant and cultural centre. It creates local jobs, adds value to local produce and serves as a showcase of positive relations between city and country.
What has been lacking in Lithuania is knowledge about how to run a small-scale, environmentally-friendly farm that processes its produce and generates a high added value. Formal agricultural education is aimed either to serve science or factory farms. Viva Sol has started engaging in training and promoting the small-scale farming model since its establishment. It has now joined forces with the Baltic Environmental Forum and international partners. Together, they have prepared and run a series of video lectures on small farming and environmentally friendly techniques. In addition, Viva Sol has conducted numerous workshops on cheese-making, animal husbandry, marketing, and a cheese-making school is also under way.
> Usually those willing to start-up a small farm lack not only knowledge and marketing experience, but also resources (funds and access to land). 17% of Lithuania’s utilised agricultural area (UAA) is unused but small-scale farmers still find it rather difficult to get access to land. Due to a complicated land restitution, in place since 1992, Lithuania is facing bureaucratic obstacles rather than free market ones. Viva Sol is working on consumer awareness and generating a positive image in order to facilitate land access for small farms that are often neglected.
The region where Viva Sol operates is home to the largest part of Lithuania’s unused land (7% of its total utilised agricultural area), and is still marked by the effects of unfinished land reform. The role of Viva Sol in creating a positive public image of small farmers has helped to ensure access to land for some 10 peasant farmers.
With its well-developed marketing practices and lobbying, Viva Sol has made possible the development of numerous farmers’ markets in Lithuania today.10 small farms are now working according to its farming and marketing model – 4 in south-east Lithuania, and 6 operating individually in other regions. There are also four sales points that have been developed which ensure stable incomes for the farmers.
Viva Sol has also managed to influence regulations on semi-subsistence farming in favour of small farmers. As a result of Viva Sol’s exchange with the President, the Ministry of Agriculture recently reduced the lower limit for the economic size of farms eligible for the Lithuanian Rural Development Programme, to the benefit of semi-subsistence farmers.
Audrius Jokubauskas, Viva sol, Lithuania: developing farmers-consumers relations and renewing peasant farming in Lithuania, a case study, 2011
Audrius Jokubauskas, Land grabbing and market opening in Eastern Europe: the case of Lithuania, 2013
Dargužių km., Valkininkų sen.,
Varėnos raj. ,