PELITI: Biggest Seed Bank on the Balkans

This is an interview with the founder of Peliti – the biggest seed bank on the Balkans. I visited this organization in July 2013. Two weeks in one of the wildest parts of Greece among great people, I was volunteering for Peliti and celebrating the unique experience there. Enjoy reading!

1. What’s your name?
Panagiotis Sainatoudis

2. Where are you from?
I’m born in Serres in Greece, but I live in Mesohori (north part of Greece near Bulgarian border).

Panagiotis, the founder of Peliti

Panagiotis, the founder of Peliti

3. What is Peliti?
Peliti was founded in 1995. Since 2003 we’ve been living here in Mesohori – here’s the office and the land of Peliti. From here we organise all Peliti’s activities.

Map of Mesohori
Peliti means “Oak” in Pontic dialect – the Pontic Greeks came as refugees from the Black sea in 1922.

At the moment Peliti is one big “oak tree” consisting of many people who speak different languages, have different mentality and meet in Peliti to preserve the local variety of seeds.

Peliti collect local seeds, conservates and share them for free to people who would like to cultivate these local varieties. The local variety is our tradition. People have been cultivating these seed for thousands of years. Local varieties are much tastier, can survive better in climate change. They also smell very delicious.

The farmer who cultivates local varieties is independent. I think this is the key for freedom.

4. Why you decided to start it?
When I started, I didn’t know anything about local varieties. It was just an inside feeling. Year after year I learned how important are the local varieties. Now I have learned many things.

5. How was Peliti started at the beginning?
I started collecting seeds from local people who passed away but actualy the seeds continue existing.

6. Could you share something about the festival?

Since 1999 we’he been organizing Pan-Helenic Seed Exchange Festival. Since 2010 this festival has been happening here, in Peliti land, Mesohori, Saturday after Orthodox Easter. The last two years we organized the International Seed Days in Greece – people from 15 countries visited the festival. This year 20 people came from Bulgaria representing the GreenTeam Bulgaria. More than 4,000 people visited the festival.

Participants in International seed days, Peliti 2013

International Seed Days 2013

7. About the volunteer program:
Peliti works with volunteers from all over the world.

A couple from Australia came for 3 days, stayed one month, worked very hard. After Pelity they continued their trip all over the world and when they returned back to Australia they called us to say that they are coming to help in the organization of the festival. Then they came for one more month.

Another story is about a young girl from US, 20 years old from New York. She came here and this was her first trip abroad – she came directly here in our village :). She had very good experience with us and she was very happy.

8. Tell me something about Karakachani:

My wife Sofia is Karakachanka. We are planning to build a traditional Karakachan’s house here in Peliti land. We need help from other Karakachans who know how we can build it. We will provide hospitality (food and accomodation) to Karakachan people who can help us build such a house.

Каракачанска калива

Karakachan’s hut is called ‘Kaliva’

In conclusion

Everyone of us is very important. It doesn’t matter what political party we belong to. Every day we eat. And by choosing what to eat, we create our future. So, it’s important, every time when we go to buy something, to think who we’ll support – the local farmers and the local seeds or not.

External resources:

More about Peliti Seed Bank – an article from Aegina Greece.