EU grant: A family from Causeni modernized sheep cheese-making manufacturing
A family gave up their city life with all its facilities and moved to the countryside, where they started a business in sheep-breeding. Two years ago, thanks to an EU grant, the young people modernized the production process. The grant was provided within the framework of the EU “Confidence Building Measures” Programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by the UNDP.
He was a military officer, she — a consultant at a luxury shop in the capital, both with education degrees obtained in Romania. This is what the young Stefanco family looked like ten years ago, when they decided to completely reinvent their lives. They moved to the countryside and started a business, for which they’d dedicated a lot of time and effort. Several years later, they were managing one of the most modern sheep farms from the district, while the cheese they make is in high demand.
“It was very difficult in the first years. We had nothing when we’ve started: no warehouses, no sheds, nor feed. From 2010 until 2015 we kept investing into the business,” notes Zinaida.
They were striving for quite a long period to buy modern equipment for milk processing. The chance came along with the support program of young entrepreneurs from both banks of Nistru, funded by the European Union.
They’ve participated in the competition with a solid business plan and obtained a grant that allowed to import from Bulgaria: a milk cooler, a pasteurizer, press table for cheese draining and molds.
“First, the milk is cooled to a certain temperature, then it is pasteurized. Most of microorganisms, especially bacteria, are destroyed. Then rennet is added, after which the product is put into molds. When it gets thick, it is cut and put for maturation. Thus, we get a traditional, ecological and absolutely inoffensive product, which complies with sanitary requirements,” Sergiu Stefanco explains.
The equipment is made of stainless steel and can be easily disinfected, unlike the wooden equipment, which the majority household cheese-makers use.
“After we got the equipment, the customers told us that our cheese inspires even more trust. There is nothing but milk,” the man says, pointing to the pasteurizer.
The spouses want now to buy more equipment and expand the manufacturing areas. The first on the procurement list is a cheese packaging machine, which would pave their way to large shops throughout the country.
A business “by the book”
At the Stefanco spouses’ farm everything is well set. Unlike the most of sheep farms, the milking is mechanical.
“The milking equipment was brought from Italy. We bought it from some young people who tried breeding sheep. They gave up when they’d realized how much work they had to do. Without this equipment, we would have needed at least five more persons for milking,” the man said.
The mini sheep cheese factory is improvised in the basement of their parents’ home. The farm, the feed warehouses and the manufacturing line are located on the same street in the village, just as the sheepfold, where the breed rams are kept.
Their workday begins at five in the morning and ends almost at midnight. Day by day, without holidays or days off. Besides the two full-time shepherds, the whole family works at the farm — Sergiu’s parents and Zinaida’s brother.
They also own a business in agriculture. They produce feed for animals and cereals for sale: wheat, corn, etc. From the grants they’d obtained from various public funds or from development partners, they managed to buy three tractors which process the land which they use and provide specialized services for their co-villagers.
The European grant helped them consolidate their business
Zinaida and Sergiu Stefanco are among those 70 young people on both banks of Nistru, which obtained European grants of up to 13,500 euro to start up and develop a business. The young people have also benefited from the services of a personal consultant, who had helped them efficiently manage their business during 14 months. At the joint events organized by the project, the grant beneficiaries convinced themselves that, despite of living on different banks of Nistru, they share the same concerns and interests.
“We consult each other every time we encounter issues, especially bureaucratic ones,” Zinaida says.
Every time when going abroad, the Stefanco spouses visit similar businesses. Gradually, they’ve come to be local experts in sheep breeding and sheep cheese making. “Many young people, who want to launch a business in this area, come to us. We do not consult by phone, we tell them to come here and see with their own eyes what it means to work at a sheep farm,” they say.
The EU “Confidence Building Measures” Programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by the UNDP, contributes to improvement of confidence between people from both banks of the Nistru River by involving representatives of business and civil society in joint projects.