My daughter’s generation, they’re working for 300 euros a month. How are you supposed to build something, start a family, on that?
I could go to Australia — when I was little we lived in Melbourne, my dad worked in the General Motors factory. I have the passport and a sister, aunts, but the children don’t want to and I feel I’d be giving up. Why should I leave just because politicians have brought the country to its knees?
I want to stay and work.
THE FINANCE DIRECTOR: DIMITRIS KOUTSOLIOUTSOS, ATHENS
I work for my uncle’s firm, a big name in jewelry and duty-free. I’ve just set up this scheme, Gineagrotis (Become a farmer). It’s not complicated — city-dwellers rent a patch of land from a farmer, tell him what they want him to grow on it and get their own fresh vegetables delivered to them weekly.
It’s about creating a direct connection between the consumer and the producer. The farmer’s happy because he knows in advance what and how much he has to plant, and he sells all he grows. It’s a regular, guaranteed, stable income — customers commit for a year and the consumer gets fresh vegetables for 70 percent less than at the supermarket or greengrocer’s.
You go online, opt for one of three plot sizes from 50m2 to 100m2, and choose from 10 summer and 10 winter vegetables. It costs from 14.20 euros to feed two people, to 20.90 euros a week for five or more. The vegetables are delivered within 24 hours of being picked and if you are away or on holiday, you can ask for them to go to a soup kitchen in Athens. From September, you can donate some vegetables weekly.
It’s really, really taken off. Amazing.
The site has been up two months and we’ve had more than 5,000 accounts created and 900 farmers sign up. Last week, we started deliveries to the first 100 families from the first four farms. In September, we plan to offer olive oil, eggs, even your own sheep or goat, you just need a big freezer, or lots of friends.
I’m working 18-hour days and spending half my time on this, with friends. I’ve put in about 40,000 euros of my own money and I’m 100 percent confident in the business plan. For farmers, it’s all they ever wanted. For consumers, it’s quality fresh food, cheaper. We’re fulfilling real social and economic needs.
Greece is full of initiatives such as this now — people are starting to realize we can and must do things ourselves, change from the bottom up.
GEORGE EISTRATIADIS, 38, PATRAS
My grandfather came here with his family from Turkey in 1922. He made a living hawking sewing needles and cloth around the villages, and selling olive oil and eggs back in town.
My dad was an electrician in the factories that existed then in Patras. In 1968, he started his own company. My brother, my sister and I took over in 2000. We specialize in water pumps, for all sorts of uses, from big waste-water and irrigation projects to swimming pools and homes.
We sell to contractors, municipalities and utility companies. In 2009, we turned over 8.8 million euros and had 67 employees. By last year, our sales had halved and this year we expect 2.5 million euros — back where we started.
The transition from plenty to hardship has been fast. Every three months I make tough decisions, and every three months they’re never enough. The first sign was when Athens didn’t put 400 planned waste-water projects out to tender. Then private contractors started delaying payments — I have maybe half a million euros in unpaid bills. Then the public-sector customers just stopped paying altogether.