Heifer Armenia has been working in the village of Lernagog in the Armavir region since 2009. It was then that a Heifer YES! Youth Clubwas established at the village's secondary school. All seven YES! Youth Club directions can be found here: agriculture, civic education, ecology, logical thinking, business education, journalism and health education. In addition to agricultural knowledge and skills learned at the club, members of the agricultural direction received calves to raise. When their calves grew up, they produced offspring, which were passed on to other members of the club.
Fourteen-year-old Sasun Tonapetyan belongs to the youth club's agricultural direction in Lernagog. He was only 10 when he received a calf. Sasun has always been extremely curious about anything related to agriculture and farming. His family had no livestock when he received an animal, so they all felt like raising the new calf was a family affair. His parents treated the calf like a member of the family and felt a strong responsibility to help their son raise it to be healthy and hearty. They've all done a great job. In fact, in four years' time, this calf gave birth to a healthy calf, which Sasun gave to a club mate in a Passing on the Gift® (POG) ceremony. Today, Sasun's family owns a cow and two calves.
Sasun also participates in the club's business and health education directions. He developed a business plan and received a small business grant from the club worth $100. With the grant, he started a poultry business. He has a small turkey farm and has completed his business direction POG obligation, too. Now, he has ducks, chickens, geese and rabbits on his farm, and he says he is proud of his success.
"On the eve of Easter, I already had many orders for eggs," Sasun shared. "I managed to sell about 250 eggs for AMD 70 (about 17 cents) each and made an income equal to AMD 17,500 (about $42). Many of my neighbors and co-villagers often buy rabbits. The meat of the rabbit is very popular because it is very tasty, delicate and healthy, since it has no fat. Housewives often prepare rabbit on holidays and special occasions like birthdays, etc."
"Every morning I wake up to the call of my poultry," Sasun said. "My mom has a pain in her hand, so I have to wake up very early to milk the cow, feed the livestock and the poultry, gather the eggs they laid, clean the barn, make sure that all the animals feel well and, only then, take a shower, have breakfast and go to school. When I come home after school, I have lunch and start doing my lessons quickly because I know that my mom needs my help. I help her water the garden and, in the evening, I feed the livestock and the poultry, give them water and milk the cow. I do this with pleasure. My mom always says that I am her biggest assistant. I am planning to become a successful farmer when I grow up. I have already thought of the name of my future farm: 'Sas-Farm-Eco,' which stands for Sasun's ecological farm."
Sasun is also involved in bio-humus production and received Californian worms from Heifer. He uses this organic humus in his family's garden and, as a result, the family gets a more bountiful harvest than ever before.
"Whatever surplus we have, be it milk, eggs, poultry meat or fruits from the garden, we sell to generate additional income. My big, future farm starts today with my small achievements," Sasun said proudly.
As for Sasun's mother, she is very proud of her diligent, clever and successful son. And we are thankful to her for raising a son like Sasun, who is a tremendous asset to our future.
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Story and Photos by Knarine Ghazanchyan, Program Coordinator, Heifer Armenia
Translated by Liana Hayrapetyan, Communication and PR Coordinator, Heifer Armenia