According to EU data, small, family agricultural holdings are responsible for feeding most EU countries and play a key role in securing food safety, and keeping tradition, local identity, and cultural heritage alive.

Having recognised its importance, the reformed common EU agricultural policy has set aside substantial funding for this sector. Funding is allocated for agricultural holdings in Serbia, too. According to their owners, EU support is rather welcome, sometimes even necessary, for a business to develop. In addition to support, they cite continuity and commitment as the other two important aspects of this business. Without them, no business can be successful, not even agriculture. But for some, agriculture is also a creative outlet, an artisanship even, and one that can bring decent income.

“For me, this business brings together artisanship, creativity, and production,” says actor and goatherd, farmer and artist, Branko Janković, as he explains his motivation behind simultaneously engaging in acting and cattle herding.

His family hails from the village of Gunjaci in west Serbia, so he decided to make the most of his talents right there and write a success story, not only for his family, but for everyone who is ready to fully commit to livestock farming. Branko chose to herd goats. He describes people engaged in goat herding as a folk of their own. He says that what sets them apart from other farmers is resourcefulness. Even though he is rather successful in expressing his resourcefulness and creativity in arts, he relies on it to improve his business dealings, too.

“I have built up my product range from premium quality products, in a market where competition is fierce and consumers can recognise a quality product,” says Branko.

A serious business requires a serious approach. But to take it seriously, one needs to understand that, in this business, it is virtually impossible to reap success on one’s own: cooperation is a must. As he explains his way of doing business, Branko says that when he first started, he was afraid he wouldn’t have enough raw materials, which is why he started off with a tribe of 200 goats. Over time, he cut the number of goats in two, and now he relies on other people from the cooperative to meet his needs for high quality milk.

“Our cooperative is around 830 goat strong; we work with any goatherd whose goats feed at the right altitude and on the right plants,” Branko says, adding, “Given that I am involved in every aspect of the business, from grass cutting to the products I market, including in my store in Belgrade, as well as working with restaurants that buy those products, I wouldn’t be able to maintain such an effective system without the help from other members of the cooperative.”

Furthermore, a successful business must offer a completely new product, one that is not offered by anyone else, with its owner overseeing the entire process – from raw material production to marketing.

“The market then works in your favour, and you can come a long way provided that you invest in people, facilities, and technology,” Branko explains and adds that everything counts. “Everything matters: the packaging, the way it is opened, its net weight and the weight of the packaging. You must consider everything because consumers expect that.

Also, family-run agricultural holdings adapt to changes in technology, economy, and policy better, and apply different strategies to increase their adaptability and resilience. Therefore, Branko realised that if he wants to make progress, he then must offer more to consumers. He once again put his resourcefulness to work and came up with a brilliant idea, one that he has already put into action.

“Given that movie Leptirica is already known worldwide as a horror classic and given that Milovan Glišić hails from this same region, I decided to build a small watermill, where wheat would be ground, and the flour produced would be used to make kačamak, cicvara, and cheese cornbread. A place to rest and enjoy food and market your products at the same time. That is how my business goes full circle, from production to tourism,” Branko says excitedly.

Possibilities are endless; support and incentives are enough, but one could always use more.  What matters is to recognise the potential and to know there is a set objective, to achieve sustainable agriculture in Serbia as a pillar of the economy. Investing in agriculture, in turn, stimulates other economic activities like manufacturing, processing, and hospitality services. And, in Branko’s own words: “Sharing is what makes profit; the only free cheese is in the mousetrap.”

Since 2000, the European Union has donated EUR 230 million for agriculture and food safety in Serbia. Increased competitiveness, food safety and public health standards, animal welfare and environmental protection are the main focus of EU’s assistance in this sector. IPARD (Instrument for pre-accession assistance for rural development) is the leading programme in this area, within which Serbia has been allocated 175 million euros for the period 2014-2020, with an additional 55 million euros in national co-funding.