How Masticulture was created
For many years during their life in the city Roula and Vassilis were typical workaholics, working for large Information Technology companies. Whenever they had the chance to travel they opted for places as far away as possible from mass tourism, where they could enjoy natural beauty and experience the local culture.
In the summer of 2006, Roula and Vassilis decided to leave the Capital of Greece, Athens, and settle in their village, the far-away Mesta in Chios. In Athens they left behind their careers, homes and an already "laid out" future in order to begin life anew, with a fresh and alternative perspective.
They didn't move to the island's main town, and they didn't find jobs linked to their old professions, but instead they invested in the archaic (although very new to these city kids) art of agriculture. They bought mastic fields and olive trees, and accompanied by their new friends, the residents of Mesta, they gradually learnt about the secrets of mastic, the special local produce and ancient traditions of the region that continue to be adamantly carried out today.
Their lifestyle change was not of a superficial nature. From consumers they became producers. From holidaymakers they settled to became "locals". In a village with less than 400 inhabitants, they had no choice but to become active and functional members of a small society.
Issues such as sustainable rural development, ecology and organic products, the management of water resources, the pollution of land and seas, were always of prime interest to the pair. But living in Mesta on Chios, these hot topics, which they used to pluck out of interesting articles and documentaries, have become motives for taking real action, at least on a local level.
After moving to Mesta they began to receive visits from friends and relatives, who accompanied them to the fields to see what a mastic tree looks like from up close. The enthusiasm and interest expressed by their visitors upon discovering the ancient cultivation practices for the mastic tree was the initial idea of creating a place where people could come to learn about mastic as well as the history, traditions and ways of life, or culture of the land where it is cultivated.
Thus began Roula and Vassilis' research on how mastic could be positioned as a central factor in a plan closely associated with sustainable tourism development. Their research led to the creation of a tourism enterprise, which, functioning in a village of 400 inhabitants can provide the following:
- Support to farmers and fishermen who can contribute to the presentation-touring programmes and will be offered the opportunity to distribute their produce from the place where it is made directly to the consumer
- Support to local stores which can trade local products high in quality and nutritious value
- Protection of the environment by developing an increased knowledge and interest amongst local farmers in organic cultivation methods
- The creation of new employment or business opportunities for residents of the remote parts of the island
- Preservation of the island's cultural heritage and the re-emergence and boost of folk art
- Raising the morale of the rural people through their heartfelt interaction with visitors
- And in time, the development of factors that facilitate youths on Chios to remain there and perhaps attract other inhabitants to live on the island
This is how Masticulture was created, acting as a point of reference for the ecotourism activities on the island of Chios, and not only.