Where the Greatest Business Asset is the Environment

“The thing about this beautiful area is that at the moment it is truly unspoilt. It’s like seeing England a few hundred years ago, and certainly before the intensive farming revolution killed off the astonishing wildflowers and destroyed the habitats of the abundant wildlife we now see living here, side by side with hard working men and women.

Here is an opportunity for Tarnava Mare to step into the future without making the mistakes we made. By hosting interested and sensitive tourism, the people who live here can earn an income because they keep this pristine landscape in good shape. The environment becomes their greatest business asset and they are the environment’s greatest asset!”

— Sue Prince, Ecotourism Business Consultant

“In Tarnava Mare we can taste flavours unharmed by the supermarkets’ campaign for uniformity! Recipes, seeds and skills have been passed from mother to daughter for eons- it really is a place to visit, to make you realise what we have lost- maybe we can rebuild our places- but it will take many years to get back to Tarnava Mare’s quality of living landscape.”

And People are the Environment’s Greatest Asset

The Saxon community has managed this landscape for hundreds of years, but in the early nineties many departed for what they thought would be a better life in Germany. Today the villages are populated by a range of ethnic groups and many have adopted the Saxon traditions of land management.

A typical village has about 200 families, of which most have 2-3 cows, and 10-20 sheep. The cows are milked at home morning and evening: the milk is used for home consumption, and the majority sold, often as the only source of cash income. In recent years the cow numbers have been declining as small producers struggle to meet strictly interpreted EU hygiene regulations. ADEPT is working to help overcome these problems by introducing farmer owned milk collection centres and to provide training on complying with the regulations by improving milk hygiene.

Sheep are kept for milk, exclusively for cheese-making, and meat. Each spring there is a village meeting where the shepherds to be in charge of the village flock are chosen, according to their reputation and to the amount of cheese they offer to the owners for ‘rent’ of their sheep. The sheep are kept at one or two temporary summer sheepfolds, often several miles away from the village, during summer months. There are wolves and bears in the area, and generally every summer a few sheep and perhaps a donkey are killed: usually by old bears rather than wolves. The sheep are guarded by fierce sheep dogs.

Sheep milking and cheese making is by hand, up in the summer sheepfolds. The unique richness of flowers and herbs in the grassland gives the cheese a special character. The cheese is transported down to the village by donkey or horse and cart once or twice a week. Traditionally most of the cheese would have been consumed in the village but increasingly the shepherds is having to travel further afield to sell their cheese and many now sell fresh milk to the dairy companies for export to Greece.

ADEPT is working to develop a model sheepfold which will help meet the new hygiene regulations. However, as a visiting sheep cheese expert from Scotland commented “it is not possible to make such exceptional tasting cheese from unhygienic milk”

A fundamental principle of Fundatia ADEPT’s programme is that conservation of the biodiversity of this area of high nature value grassland is only possible by maintaining the area’s economic viability. ADEPT is therefore implementing a range of measures to create demand that will empower local people and boost local income from agriculture and from other diversified, value added income sources.


Tourists from elsewhere in Romania and from around the world were visiting the Tarnava Mare area in increasing numbers, but few were spending more than one day in the area and most drove straight through spending no more 15-20 minutes to photograph a church. The challenge was to encourage tourists to spend more time in the area by publicising what a wonderful world class experience they would otherwise miss.

By staying longer in the area tourists required feeding and ADEPT is working to encourage meal providers to work with their neighbours to grow a surplus of local produce, rather than rushing of to the nearest supermarket when their own supplies run low.

Ecotourism creates demand for agricultural produce but sensitive visitor management is vital to support rather than destroy the very landscape we are trying to preserve.

Ecotourism creates demand for gifts to take home, but in 2006 the most common complaint was that only Dracula themed mugs and tee shirts were available. This requirement for gifts created the initial demand for local produce.

Polyflora honey from the wild flower meadows is perhaps one of the most symbolic products of the Tarnava Mare area and most villages will have at least one beekeeper. Some of this honey is now being bottled in Saschiz rather than being exported in bulk for blending, adding significant value for the beekeepers.

How Jam is helping to build a New Environmental Economy

The inspiration to focus on jam was the table of Gerda Gherghiceanu and the Slow Food Presidium “Saxon Village Preserves” (a project bringing together a group of producers), was created in 2006 to capture the ancient tradition of producing different kinds of homemade jams, compotes and ‘dulciazia’ (fruits in syrup similar to Bosnian slatko) using the fruit that grows in the courtyard or orchard or that is picked in the uncontaminated meadows and woods of this area.

Wild forest fruits: blackberries, cornelian cherries, pears, raspberries, strawberries; Wild meadow fruits: blackberries, bullace (red and yellow corcodus / mirabelle), cornelian cherries, rose-hip, sea buckthorn, strawberries; Orchard fruits: apple, pear, plum, quince, sour cherry, walnut; Courtyard fruits: blackcurrant, gooseberry, raspberry, redcurrant, rhubarb, strawberry, white currant.

Until 2006, the jams were only produced for family use and the Presidium represents a new and interesting source of revenue for people who are reliant on agriculture and whose only other source of income is selling milk at very low prices. Already the Presidium or group members have gained social benefits from meeting like minded people from neighbouring villages and it is hoped that this will form the basis for an active programme of activities.

Innovation and rediscovery

In 2008, a range of pickles were added to the product range, many based on old recipes handed down over many generations to the current occupant of “The House on the Hill” in Saschiz. The chilli pickle was a great success as were the gherkins and sweet red peppers called gogosari which are much tastier than ordinary red peppers.
Also in 2008, a range of sun dried herbs were put on sale at the Tourist Information Centre in Saschiz and proved a great success. The simple driers were built by local carpenters and introduced in 2006, but for the first two seasons everything was consumed by the households. The dried herbs were for culinary use and as herbal tea infusions.

The honey, jams, pickles and dried herbs are all from the Tarnva Mare area, and are helping the survival of communities by giving value to their products and pride in their traditions.

Fundatia ADEPT Transylvania is carrying out research into the important habitats and wildlife of the area and working with farmers to protect them. See

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