Through the Greek economic crisis he took a gamble to "enter" into other paths, which seemed almost impossible at the same time. His restless spirit in combination with his anxiety about the future, led him to a big decision: “To invest in the land, the land of his parents, his grandparents and his own childhood memories…” he says overly excited.
We present you, Mr Hippocrates Kourounis, the owner of the Aegean View Hotel and a farm, a big area of 600 acres in Marmari - Kos, the one & only farm in Greece as he claims. (There is a similar farm in Kalamata, which produces only agricultural and not livestock products.)
The idea for this project began in the summer of 2012."I was looking to find a way to upgrade my hotel. I wanted to face my clients straight in the eyes and feel proud of what we can offer them, because quality means to surpass your customer’s expectations" he says.
Guided by knowledge and experience from years of involvement in tourism, he realized through the past years, that although the nutritional value of a tourist’s food on holidays once scored No 7 in his choice list, nowadays it has climbed into second place. Friendliness & hospitality continue to score first place. This is why Greece is so high at the list of the tourist’s demand choices.
The risk was quite big, nobody believed in his dream. Eventually, he found a company whose owners were two Turks and one Dutchman, established in the Netherlands in September 26th 2012 and they signed a contract together. This new company was about to cover 80% of the hotel for the next five years.
"So, the struggle just began! I had no clue about tomatoes, milk, or any kind of animal for that matter ... I had no knowledge whatsoever about what this land could offers us. It was not easy. There was no past experience & I had to learn everything from scratch", he says.
He traveled abroad. Visited Holland, Italy, Poland, Romania, but also the North of Greece and Thessaly. He cooperated with specific schools, such as the American Farm School, with Professor Gianni Daglis and Professor George Barca, as well, from the Dairy Educational School of Ioannina. Those people came to Kos, they set up the cheese creamery and helped us make our first steps.
The first "dig" on the farm was on February 7th, 2013. Stables, warehouses, storage rooms, museums with various "old agricultural tools" were built with thoughtful design and great care.
Today, the farm accommodates cows, calves, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, horses. The animals are demanding. They want in daily basis, several kilograms net food (corn, wheat, barley and flour from sunflower seeds). This year, they managed to have their own feed production and now cover approximately 80-90% of the amount they need. The farm produces cheeses (feta cheese, graviera cheese, Gouda cheese ect.), milk, meat, oil and almost all the vegetables.Hippocrates’ goal was to cover 100% of the Aegean View hotel's nutritional needs and he succeeded! In 2017 he plans to open several small shops where customers will be offered apart from dairy products, everything else the farm produces. Another future plan of his, is the cultivation of herbs (lavender, basil, etc.), which in addition to making use of them as products, he also wants to enrich the animals’ feed.
The farm is open for everyone to visit and every day many of his hotel guests visit the place. He is also giving out information to all schools on the island so with the beginning of the new school year, they can integrate their field trips with a visit to his farm.
At the end of our visit to this beautiful farm we asked Hippocrates some kind of a title of his achievement: “The love for nature, makes you a different person. I was not like that…During the last years, I have been hard on the people surrounding me and on myself at the same time. Now I feel I have changed a lot. It's incredible how my love for my occupation with the land and the animals have made me a better man.”
words & photos by Kiki Kapasakalidou