Young farmer Matic Vizjak – innovative products based on chilli peppers and beekeeping

Vizjak Farm proves that even a small farm (0.90 ha of agricultural land) can provide jobs by developing new innovative products, and good marketing approaches.

The young farmer constantly expands the range of his products, and improves and seeks new innovative products; they were the first to combine wine with chilli peppers, and won three awards for their innovation at their first international competition in New York. The young farmer regularly broadens his knowledge through training abroad. In 2017, he was selected as the most innovative young farmer in Slovenia.

He is also distinguished by his good sense of marketing based on personal marketing – one on one, which is upgraded with social media, videos, event organisation, such as the largest spicy food festival in this part of the Europe. The young farmer successfully markets his products through the Jager and Tuš commercial networks. He also promotes his mission and products abroad, for example in Amsterdam, Trieste, the United States of America, Great Britain, Japan, Thailand, etc.

In Slovenia, we are not self-sufficient in terms of crops, and do not market vegetables enough; therefore, the focus of Vizjak Farm is also very important from the aspect of the strategic needs of Slovenian agriculture.

By taking over the farm and becoming self-employed, the young farmer significantly strengthened the competitiveness of the farm. Several activities are pursued at the farm, and new innovative products, and new marketing channels are constantly sought.

Investments made under sub-measure 6.1 Business start-up aid for young farmers are intended primarily to modernise agricultural machinery – to purchase flail mowers with hammer blades, modernise the production line for chilli pepper processing, tiller and seeder. The investment includes the setting up of a new beehive for apitherapy and its interior equipment, and part of the funds is intended for equipment for subsidiary on-farm activity.

 

“If we continue to speak only about our farms, we will not change people's mindset. We need to dig deeper and stimulate young people that they can succeed even on small farms measuring a mere two hectares. I know that this is a weird number in the European context but this is the reality in Slovenia. Such farmers must be given hope and shown that they can succeed if their aims are ambitious enough and if they believe in them.” (from the address for the selection of the European Innovative Young Farmer)

 

“It is a completely different feeling when you work for yourself, when a product comes from your hands and when you see that the market has actually accepted it well. This gives me more pleasure and satisfaction. Money used to be my priority. Now, everything else is my priority, money is just the consequence of what I do. When I made this change in my head, my life turned upside down. In these few years since I came back home, our farm has made considerable progress. Many new things have been introduced to agriculture.” (from an interview in the Narava zdravi (Nature Heals) magazine)

 

Context

Vizjak Farm – A Farm with a Vision was taken over by young farmer Matic Vizjak in 2016. He became a farmer after he had changed nine jobs, travelled the world and finally settled down on his farm.

 

He had always loved being outside, and as his father Silvo kept bees and produced wholemeal flour, he joined him. The rest is a classic success story. The yield of chillies was rich that year and the Vizjaks could not eat all the fresh chillies, which gave rise to the first sauces that are now a great success. They tried new things with honey too; they developed cream honey, and added goji berries, ginger, cinnamon, chocolate, etc. to it. The response was phenomenal.

For this reason, Matic made the bold decision to stop looking for a job abroad, take over the farm and be employed on the farm.

Since the farm is very small, they pursue other activities, adding value to basic agricultural products. Matic's basic principle when developing new products is to do something no one ever has before and to create the highest possible margin (the difference between the sales price excl. VAT and purchasing price excl. VAT). Matic and his father are very successful, as they managed to raise the market value of certain basic products by 300 per cent and up to 1000 per cent in three years.

The activities pursued on the farm are:

  • beekeeping (innovative honey products, apitourism);
  • cultivation and processing of chillies (chilli sauce, salsas, brandies, jams, etc.);
  • milling products (gluten-free wholemeal flour);
  • wine making (first official spicy wine in the world);
  • organisation of the largest spicy food festival in this part of the EU.

Matic Vizjak is the mastermind, ambitious, innovative, lucid, the marketer, promoter and connector. He has full-time employment on the farm. In 2017, he was named as the most innovative young farmer in Slovenia by the Slovenian Rural Youth Association.

 

Objectives

The vision of Vizjak Farm is to promote agriculture with its own success story and stimulate young people by showing them that innovative approaches enable one to survive on a mere two hectares.

 

Activities

Several agricultural activities are pursued on the farm; i.e. apiculture, chilli peppers and organic milling products. Products are also processed and marketed. They keep seeking opportunities to improve and develop new innovative products at all stages.

 

Bee products

The number of beehives grew from 16 to 65. The special feature of their bee products is a completely new innovative cream honey line with modern design and high added value in the form of additives for the immune system they named Melissé. Several products have been developed.

Cream honey with:

  • cinnamon and pollen;
  • real cocoa;
  • Bourbon vanilla;
  • chilli peppers;
  • ginger;
  • goji berries;
  • mint and lemon balm;
  • spruce tips.

Cream honey is cream-like natural honey made with a special stirring process. This is finely crystallised honey that can easily be spread due to its fine, even crystals which have not solidified.

 

Chilli pepper products

They offer a total of ten chilli pepper products (sauces) presented under the increasingly recognised brand Čili Frik. Most of the ingredients are home-grown. Chilli pepper is combined with fruit, smoked pepper they smoke by themselves and various spices. They cultivate the chillies in a dedicated greenhouse and have 800–1,000 plants and over 20 assorted varieties from around the world. Chilli has positive effects on health, as it boosts metabolism, destroys micro-organisms, etc.

The recognisability and sales of the brand have been rising from year to year; in a short period, they have managed to be present in over 60 retail chains, pizza restaurants, restaurants and independent retailers around Slovenia. Their ambitious target is to sell at 100 locations and become the largest manufacturer of chilli sauces in Slovenia. They have recently renovated and modernised their production line, which means that they can manufacture many more products in a shorter period. Link to their products: http://kmetija-vizjak.si/kategorija-izdelka/cili-frik/

 

Wine making

They developed the first spicy wine in the world. They have two types – rosé and white.

- https://www.chilli-wine.com/en/

- https://chillino.eu/

Chilli wine is a unique product, a combination of top varieties and cellaring according to old methods with a touch of fresh spicy chilli. The wine's flavour is complex, slightly spicy and mature. The recipe for the wine is protected and their intellectual property. Chilli wine was first presented in May 2016 at the Wine and Chocolate Festival in Podčetrtek. It immediately drew media attention. 450 bottles were sold in the first year, i.e. 2016; we need to bear in mind that this wine is sold at a higher price. Expectations for 2017 were higher; they prepared 4,000 bottles of white and 1,000 of rosé – a total of 3,000 l; in 2018, they prepared 4,500 l. Since they have been actively promoting themselves abroad, their primary target for 2019 is to double the sales.

 

Organic milling products

On Vizjak Farm, cereals, i.e. spelt, buckwheat, white corn, wheat and soya, are also grown. All cereals are cultivated in a completely organic way, for which they have obtained an organic certificate. The first mill is intended only for flours that contain gluten, while only gluten-free cereals, i.e. buckwheat and corn, are ground in the second mill.

 

Društvo ljubiteljev čilija Slovenije (Chili Lovers Association of Slovenia)

Matic Vizjak is the founder and president of Društvo ljubiteljev čilija Slovenije, and the organiser of the largest spicy food festival in Slovenia, which has been visited by around 17,000 people in four years. The festival hosts 36 stalls with spicy food.

The idea for the first chilli festival in Slovenia grew out of his love for chilli. The purpose of the festival is to educate about, and popularise, spicy food which is a very young culture in Slovenia.

Link: https://ljubiteljicilija.si/

 

INNOVATIVE IDEA

Matic Vizjak boasts three innovative ideas: spicy wine (Chilli wine), the cream honey line Melissé and the organisation of the first chilli festival in Slovenia.

No one has ever made a genuinely spicy wine (Chilli wine). Chilli wine has already been used to denote quite a few products in the world, but these are 100 per cent extracts or pure juices of freshly squeezed chilli, where the pulp is removed and contains no wine, which means this does not include cellaring but merely work in the kitchen.

The cream honey line with additives is special and innovative too. There are a few products of regular honey with cinnamon and chilli on the market but no cream honey with goji berries, mint and lemon balm, genuine cocoa, spruce tips, ginger, etc.

Also special and innovative is the first chilli festival in Slovenia, which is visited by several thousand people each year, produces an extraordinary response in the media, and popularises and educates about spicy food.

Some of the farm's awards:

- gold and silver medals for spicy wine in the USA (Great American International Wine competition 2017);

- silver medal for spicy wine in the USA (Fingerlakes International Wine competition 2017);

- winning spicy sauce BBQ Smoky Jenna at a national competition in Slovenia.

 

Results


- Economic:

Sales in all four segments have been growing steeply from year to year. Their aim for 2019 is to create another job. Economic outcomes are:

  • increased production capacity;
  • greater competitiveness of the agricultural holding;
  • enhanced marketing of products;
  • better quality of products;
  • new knowledge by attending training.

- Environmental / Climate action:

They farm organically and have obtained a certificate. Not only that, they also farm in a biodynamic way which takes up even more time and planning. Such farming has proven to be great, exceptionally fruitful, tomatoes weighed as much as 1,200 g, and one chilli plant produced a whole bucket of pods. They compost in a large composter where they dispose of all waste material from the agricultural land. They ferment nettle and valerian flowers which they use for foliar feeding which provides plants with nitrogen, and enables their growth and resistance. They also add organic guano.

- Social:

  • Generational renewal of the farm with parents still being actively involved.
  • The chilli festival tightly connected the local community, as one can feel the vibe of the town when collaborating and helping with organisation.
  • Considerable funds are raised each year at the festival, which are donated to a primary school, nursery and an occupational activity centre for people with special needs.
  • Since winning the Innovative Young Farmer 2017 award, Matic Vizjak has become one of the loudest promoters of agriculture in Slovenia, as he regularly gives lectures at primary and secondary schools, encouraging young people to become farmers. He gives more and more lectures at associations, events and business conferences as a best practice example and a motivator, stating that many innovations may be created from scratch with the right approach and a positive mindset, leading to success.
  • His contribution has been recognised by Europe as well, as he is invited to international events abroad as an innovator and an inspiration for young people. He went to Brussels and Tirana in December 2018 alone.

- Networking value:

They liaised with the Kolar Winery from Spodnja Ponkvica and introduced them to the story of spicy wine. They are well aware that they will not be able to satisfy all export needs alone after they succeed abroad. Ivan Kolar is a wine grower and oenologist, who brought professionalism to the development of spicy wine.

They have managed to establish good collaboration with the local community, including through the chilli festival, as one can feel the vibe of the town when collaborating and helping with organisation.

 

- Transferability:

Matic Vizjak promotes agriculture, agricultural sectors, cultivation and the processing of chillies in Slovenia and Europe, stirring up the interest of young people in agriculture.

They also have a website which is translated into four languages, so they send wine to all EU Member States.

 

 

Contact

Matic Vizjak, Vizjak Farm, Zadrže 19, 3240 Šmarje pri Jelšah

Contact person: Matic Vizjak

E-mail: info@kmetija-vizjak.si

Phone: 00386 41 913 999

Website: 

http://kmetija-vizjak.si

https://www.chilli-wine.com/en/

https://chillino.eu/

 

Presentation VIDEO

 

Photo copyright: ČZD Kmečki glas d. o. o.

 DSC6474 Chilli vino Matic Vizjak foto Janez Marolt 

With a family

 

ciliji avgust 2016 15

IMG 1106

kmetijavizjak 1

With a president of Slovenia

 

 

 

 

Additional Info

  • Regions: Savinja
  • Fields of project: Social inclusion
  • Measure of RDP 2014-2020: M6.1 – Business start-up aid for young farmers
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