As a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), my primary assignment is teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) in a village school, but living in Armenia for two years gives me plenty of time to pursue secondary projects. Last summer, I worked at a bunch of youth camps (they’ll be a post on that later), but this year, I’m going to help my former host family set up and run a Farmstay Bed and Breakfast. They live in a farming village with about 250 families in Kotayk Marz, about 30 km from Yerevan, where they own and operate an organic dairy farm with cows and sheep, earning about $120 a month from selling yogurt products in nearby Charentsavan. They have a beautiful house set in rolling fields, with a garden providing fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the summer and homemade jams and juices during the rest of the year.
The Garden (in summertime!)
They’re ideally set up to be a Bed and Breakfast because they’re close to Yerevan (about a 45 minute drive), but at a much higher altitude, far above the heat and pollution of Yerevan in the summertime. Guests will get to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of village life, as well as connecting with the land and learning how and farm works and where their food comes from. The family will get a boost in income and maybe some extra hands on the farm, which they especially need because their eldest son is doing his army service right now. On this blog, I’ll be keeping track of our progress in starting the B&B…
The first steps are to register as a company and develop a product line. For that, I called on my friend and fellow PCV Terri, who works with the Kotayk Small and Medium Enterprise Development National Center (SMEDNC) On a snowy January day, she came out to visit the farm, tour the bedrooms and eat a delicious meal cooked by Anaheit, the wife and mother of the family.
“My brother has a car,” said Naver, the father and husband of the family “He could take guests to Sevan and Garni.”
Terri sitting down to a meal of dolma with homemade juice.
Well, we explained, there are lots of established tourist services that already do trips to Garni and Sevan. Instead, let’s concentrate on what’s special about the village. The things that are everyday chores on the farm are interesting to people from the city. Milking the cows, gardening, making yogurt, cheese, khorovatsand lavash are all fascinating to people who have always bought their food from a grocery store. The village also has excellent hiking, roads for bicycling and a sports field. Neighbors own horses and can arrange horseback-riding.
As Terri and I left, we agreed that Terri and the SMEDNC would help the family set up their business and develop products, while I would start to put together a brochure and do marketing. So how about it readers:
What would you like to do and see at an Armenian village farmstay B&B? Are you interested in a farmstay in Armenia? How would you find out about it, and what would you look for?
Sam is an American Peace Corps Volunteer who lives and works in Aragotsotn Marz. This piece originally appeared on his blog: www.heyamerikatsi.comThe views and opinions expressed are his personally and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Peace Corps.