Teachers were hard to come by in the Turkish countryside of the 1940s, and to foster education in rural areas, the secular and intellectually-minded founders of the Turkish Republic implemented a village institute program that was one of its kind. Gifted village children were given the chance to pursue an education in one of ten establishments across the country, and they were schooled both in the liberal arts and in practical subjects, such as farming.
Mehmet Sevilmiş was his village’s first graduate and teacher, and also earned his living as a dried fruits trader. He traveled from town to town, trading dried mulberries that had grown in his village since time immemorial.
In time Mehmet had a son, whose name was Atilla. Atilla grew up firmly rooted in the land, but, mirroring his father’s journey, he sought a business education in the big city of Istanbul. In the 1990s, true to his roots and with newly-acquired business savviness, Atilla traveled to the town of Kaş in Antalya where, with his sons and a community of like-minded folk, he purchased a stone house with a 10 acre plot of land, and took on organic farming.
Atilla's vision grew, and the stone house became a center that opened its doors to guests not only from Turkey, but from across the globe. It offered them a retreat from the bustle of modern life, a chance to reconnect with an agriculture that respected the land, and with food as nature intended it to be. By 1994, the center began exporting its products to the USA and Germany. Today, the center still offers guests the opportunity to experience what is now called eco-tourism, though in a new location, and under the name YUVA Eco Holiday Centre.
In 1996, while still operating the center in Kaş, Atilla and his sons - our family - launched its first organic agriculture project in Atilla’s hometown, in southeastern Turkey. There, we grew mulberries, sesame seeds and apricots in what was then only the second organic project in all of Turkey. By 2009, what had begun as a 10 acre plot of land became our family-owned dried fruit company, Yabanfood - now a household name among food factories in Turkey.
We may have been around for decades, but our roots grow deep, and our principles remain the same.