‘We want to make glamping’: how a farmer from Arsk grows papayas, passion fruit, and bananas

Elina Kalimulina, a resident of the Arsky district, is a grower who grows exotic plants in the Tatarstan hinterland. The girl planted papaya, passion fruit, figs, and other crops on a plot of 50 acres, but the project created at the call of the soul is not yet profitable. Now its author is trying with all her might to save her “forest”. What the adherent of permaculture dreams about — in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

“Exotics felt cramped”

Elina Kalimulina has been able to grow plants since childhood. Even as a child, she transplanted plants to all relatives, friends, teachers at school. Becoming an adult, the girl did not leave this occupation:

“For more than three years I have been growing exotic plants from seeds in pots at home. I found them myself, or friends from all over the world brought them. My hobby has led to that my whole apartment has become like one big botanical garden. When I realised that my exotics felt cramped and that they would be happy to bear fruit, but it was impossible in pots, I decided that I had to find a suitable space.”

“I realised that my exotics felt cramped in pots, and that we need to find a suitable space.” Milyausha Kashafutdinova/realnoevremya.ru

For a long time Elina lived and worked in Moscow, then moved to Kazan, became engaged in marketing. Later, she launched the fruit delivery project Fruktasia, which worked for two years.

“When we had already established a clear delivery system, I began to wonder: am I doing the right thing? I started looking for myself, my destiny. I wanted to answer the question why I came to this world. The idea to grow a forest came during meditation — the answer came that I was born to plant a forest," the young woman believes.

“Papaya, passion fruit, figs have taken root and started bearing fruit!”

Active searches for year-round greenhouses and visits to various complexes began. Finally, a suitable place was found in the village of Stary Yavash, Arsky district. There were three industrial greenhouses, the total area of which was 560 square metres. The owner asked for 4,2 million rubles for a plot with infrastructure. The novice farmer did not have such money. As a result, they agreed to take a plot of 50 acres with greenhouses and a house for rent.

“I started planting the plants right away. But in the first year, almost all tropical plants died during the cold weather — mangoes, longans, lychees, salakki, rambutans. But papaya, passion fruit, figs have taken root very well and, most surprisingly, they have begun to bear fruit!” says Elina.

“Papaya, passion fruit, figs have taken root very well and, most surprisingly, they have begun to bear fruit!” says Elina. Milyausha Kashafutdinova/realnoevremya.ru

Before the greenhouses were sold, they had been idle for three years. During this time, no activity was conducted here. The entire infrastructure was being destroyed. The only thing the previous owners did was to warm up the pipes in winter so that they would not burst. As a result, the young woman faced serious problems, the solution of which required large financial investments. It was necessary to repair greenhouses, heating boilers and pipes, pay for utilities every month. As a result, after a few months the debt accumulated, and the owners forbade the tenant to come to the greenhouses. No one took care of the plants for four months, the greenhouses were clogged.

Every little bit helps

“The owner called me and made the last offer — within a month to pay off debts on communal services and purchase a plot of land. He named the last price — 2,8 million," the young woman says.

Before the greenhouses were sold, they had been idle for three years. Milyausha Kashafutdinova/realnoevremya.ru

But there was no such amount, so Elina Kalimulina decided to resort to crowdfunding (this is a collective collaboration of people who voluntarily pool their money or other resources together, usually via the Internet, to support the efforts of other people or organisations). She threw a cry on social networks, which was responded to by entrepreneur Bulat Kirilov. As it turned out later, he always dreamed of building a greenhouse with exotic plants, but all his attempts ended in failure.

On the first day of acquaintance, the young people came to the greenhouses and immediately decided to buy a plot:

“After buying a complex with greenhouses, we had one million rubles left. We knew we should to invest here, but we couldn't imagine how much. Our boilers were breaking down, they needed to be restored, we connected heating and lighting in greenhouses. Our wiring was on fire, there were even mini-fires.”

On the first day of acquaintance, the young people came to the greenhouses and immediately decided to buy a plot. Milyausha Kashafutdinova/realnoevremya.ru

Business without profit

Today, the “exotic forest” in the Arsky district blooms, smells fragrant, bears fruit, but does not bring money. In greenhouses, peppers and tomatoes give a good harvest, by the way, peppers grow here as perennial shrubs, the hostess does not transplant them every year, like ordinary gardeners. Vegetables are most often used as a barter payment system. Tropical fruits — papaya, passion fruit — are not being sold yet, as the grower wants to conduct laboratory tests first.

“Recently, we've conducted such an experiment: we began to receive guests for money. But the visits did not last long, because the season of active crop care, the heat season, the watering season has begun, when you are faced with a choice — to receive people, lead excursions or take care of plants, otherwise they will all die. As a result, we now face other values. We cut off the flow of guests.”

The excursions are planned to be revived in winter, when snow falls, but in a different format. There is a desire to create a nursery of tropical plants so that they grow all over Tatarstan. There are also many other plans.

“We want to do glamping here. Besides, a hall where one can comfortably practice yoga, open a kind of retreat centre where you one conduct meditative practices. I would like to create a new tourist zone, an atmospheric place to spend time with good people. I would like to interact with Kazan restaurants in the future, create food courts.”

Milyausha Kashafutdinova/realnoevremya.ru

In the summer, Elina Kalimulina invited a commission from the Arsky district to introduce her activities and ask for help in processing documents for state grants. But, as it turned out, such a specific type of agriculture does not fall under the action of any programme. Now the option of submitting documents for the rural tourism development programme “Agrotourism” is being considered, difficulties are also arising with this — the unique exotic forest in Stary Yavash does not fit into the bureaucratic framework.

Milyausha Kashafutdinova