Lilian and Nikos
Lilian and Nikos grow microgreens, edible flowers and chilis at The Chili Factor in Thessaloniki, Greece. Nikos is the vice president of the Northern Greece Organic Farmers Association that represents more than 100 certified organic farmers.
We had been running a comic-book store in Thessaloniki city for 20 years, when economic crisis hit the USA in 2007 radically affecting our importation of comic books. With no knowledge of farming or agricultural business, we gave up our shop and instead started organic farming, starting with lesser-known vegetables and lost heirloom vegetables, and later microgreens and edible flowers. We started making chilli sauces, pestos and chutneys which we sold weekly at a local organic farmers’ market in Thessaloniki.
We had to learn quickly. The legal requirements to become farmers were complicated and there wasn’t much help. Fortunately, we love reading. We learned from books and we learned from our mistakes. We joined the cooperative for Greek farmers, Oikogiorti, which follows organic pathways as well as Agroecopolis and the Northern Greece Organic Farmers Association.
We deliver our goods to chefs, restaurants, hotels and sell them at Thessaloniki Organic Farmers’ Markets and we opened our farm so chefs can try, taste, be inspired and pick their fresh ingredients. Every now and then we welcome groups from cooking and gastronomy schools, so these future chefs have an opportunity to encounter brand new materials and lesser-known vegetables.
With Oikogiorti we organised organic farming festivals, leading seminars and workshops and hosting seed exchanges across Greece. Since 2014 Nikos has been vice president of the Northern Greece Organic Farmers Association. We attended a BOND training in Portugal last winter, and this inspired us to be more active. We are currently working with Agroecopolis to introduce CSAs into our country, and recently worked on a project with them during the COVID-19 quarantine.