The owners of the “Wild Farm” in the village of Gorno Pole Blagovesta and Nikolay Vasilevi are one of the few Bulgarian families who have decided to voluntarily replace the amenities of urban living with the tranquility provided by the village.
Their story began in 1994, when the two students of chemistry and zooengineering met, and later lived together in the almost deserted village of Gorno Pole, Madzharovo municipality. Nikolai’s grandparents are from the village, and in order to be close to them he studies part-time. Betty and Nikki, as they all call them, start with 5-6 goats and sheep. Nikolai has experience with them, as he has been grazing 300 goats on his own since the fifth grade after his grandfather’s untimely death. Thus the young family started the “Wild Farm”.
In 1996, the two decided to sell a hereditary apartment in Plovdiv so that they could expand their farm in Gorno Pole. The money was used to buy 16 cows, but unfortunately half of them died in the first month – they were unable to adapt to the microclimate of the Rhodope village. The couple decided to start breeding the local breeds Bulgarian Gray Cattle and Rhodope Shorthorn Cattle.
Today, the farm has about 700 cows grazing under the watchful eye of a dozen Karakachan dogs, 50 beehives, 20 Karakachan sheep, 39 donkeys, four horses and a young foal. The cows of the farming couple live entirely in the forest, and Nikolai collects them only in case of danger of attack by wolves. In just one year, wolves have killed more than 40 animals. It is calmer in the spring because the four-legged predators retreat as soon as their young are born. The cows also come home from grazing when they have to give birth in order to be “away from human eyes”.
The calves in the “Wild Farm” suckle until 6 months of age, after which they are weaned from the mother. Female calves remain for offspring. Farmers raise the animals mainly for meat, which they first export to Italy and Albania, and then sell in organic stores on the domestic market. Both organic honey here and beef have a certificate of origin and content. A real phenomenon from the animal world can be freely observed on the farm – the Egyptian vulture, which has disappeared several times over the years as a species and even today is still considered critically endangered. Farmers say rare birds are seen landing in the lowlands, where they feed on their animal feces.
“The more orange it is, the sweeter it is. Here is a harrow in August, but I have had pumpkins for a year and a month. You ask me how I keep them for so long? They are very simple – they are not fertilized “, shares the farmer. The recipe is simple – remove the lid of the pumpkin and carve it. It is stuffed with stewed beef, leeks, or onions (naturally picked from the yard) and a little mountain savory. It is necessary to bake for at least 3 hours.
Another meal of Betty is a regular casserole with beef, potatoes, and old beans of over 100 years old variety, which is also grown on-site on the farm. The owners serve Merlot or Pamid wine with delicious homemade dishes. The owners of the “Wild Farm” produce it here on-site, without yeast and sulfur, during natural, wild fermentation.
Another attraction that the “Wild Farm” offers visitors is riding Eric and White – tame horses that also live under the roof of the farm, catching a wild cow with a lasso, or kayaking on the breathtaking meanders of the Arda River. The program includes activities such as washing river sand for gold or a mountain expedition in search of amethysts, jaspers, agates, and any other minerals that nature is rich in here.
With a smile on their faces, Blagovesta and Nikolai Vasilevi say that they owe absolutely everything they have achieved with the “Wild Farm” to themselves and their work. Only a few years ago, they hired workers. But their greatest wealth is their four children – three daughters and one son.
Due to the exoticism, diversity, and surrounding wildlife, the “Wild Farm” is visited by many tourists – both foreigners and Bulgarians. Starting from scratch, after more than 20 years of hard work, Betty and Nikolay Vasilevi managed to open 6 guest rooms, comfortably furnished in a typical Rhodope style.
At the idea of a foreign guest, the farmers are involved in a project for sustainable development of the Eastern Rhodopes. With their “Wild Farm” they perfectly combine organic production, wildlife, and ecotourism. Some parts of the interior are authentic. In the former barn, which has now been turned into a dining room, there are interesting holes in the walls. These are the so-called “frogs” or the place where hens in the past laid their eggs.
The dishes served to tourists are prepared entirely by Betty according to traditional local recipes. One of the most delicious dishes served here for breakfast is her famous “gyozlemi”, as well as “blachko” – sweet pie. Other specialties are pie with rabbit, rice, or bulgur, chicken with “katmi”, but as the best dish, Blagovesta defines the stuffed pumpkin with beef.