The role of Rural Development Association of Harghita County Council.

In two days, two workshops took place in accordance with the action plan of the FRIDGE project, which aimed to enable the actors of the milk product chain to meet, talk and think together.

Both workshops were part of the Carpathian Basin Cheese Festival entitled „Böjti Csemege”, 24.-25.3.2023 in Valea Boros, Harghita County, organised by the Handicraft Association of Szekler Cheese Makers together with the Association of Szekler Farmers' Associations and the Rural Development Association of Harghita County Council.

The Rural Development Association of Harghita County plays an important role in FRiDGE aiming to increase the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises operating in the field of food production. The project aims to offer basic direction for certain product chains, which will make production easier and more effective, as well as entering the market and staying in it.

”We want to provide a direction for cheese producers. Our objective is to promote cooperation within them to find markets that would be difficult to find individually. At the same time, they have to be able to produce on a standard quality and quantity which could be commercialized in the future”, explained the association`s director, Csongor László. He added: ”It is important that Hargita County farmers and food industry actors find their place in the ever-increasing market competition, because we see that the objectives and resources of the new Common Agricultural Policy are focused on increasing efficiency.”

Due to its geographical location, the county's farmers can be marketable with products with high added value, because we cannot compete with agricultural enterprises with up to 1,000 hectares producing in the lowlands. Thus, the making of the cheeses for this competition and the professional presentations all contribute to the development of agriculture in our county.

The workshops

The workshops at the end of March were therefore organized based on these specific goals. High-quality professional presentations made it possible for the milk product chain actors to develop the trust and motivation necessary for cooperation. Topics such as ”the road to quality cheese”, production technologies and secrets, clean sources of farming were presented, but the world of IT also appeared among the presentations. From succesful examples the participants learned about the market opportunities which can be achieved through cooperation. Inhibiting factors, that make progress difficult due to cultural reasons, lack of professional knowledge, or even infrastructural obstacles were also presented. The possible reduction and elimination of these factors was also a topic, and the participants evaluated the oppoturnities together.

The importance of the workshops was also emphasized by cheese master Tamás Sándor, the owner of the Hungarian Bükki Cheese Manufactory: "I see these workshops as useful, because these are meeting points of actors involved in the profession, dairy farmers, cheese makers, gastronomy specialists, stakeholders. There are individuals, thinkers and innovative professionals who, at one of these meetings, raise the possibility and idea of future development, the importance and essence of cooperation, and even if not everyone follows through on what was discussed, the leading figures and those who are serious about it, considers it as a professional task, they will always take further what was discussed." He added that these workshops are also good opportunities for learning, because good examples should be followed. Highly knowledgeable professionals share their own professional experiences, which participants can use when they return home. "So there is no question that these workshops are of high importance, in fact I think that more and more similar events are needed in the future for a rapid development of local cheese production” the cheese master summarised. Csongor László, director of the Rural Development Association of Hargita County, was on the same opinion: ”from the point of view of the FRIDGE project, these workshops are essential, because a complete, well-founded product path model cannot be set up without them.”