Cutting grass – harvesting direct payments

First thing to think about is where to get an income.

Finding a job in Latvia would promise in average 500 EUR per month (160 working hours) after taxes. This is small enough to consider if it is worth it. Question is, how much money can you get without having a job and what is the balance between the salary and amount of money you can save by making things for yourself instead of buying them?

Formula is easy. Amount of money you earn by having a job must be greater then amount of money you can save by making things by yourself.

Bread costs in average 1,50 EUR/kg. Fuel costs about 1,30 EUR/l. Traveling requires time, lunch break at work is at least 30 min – one needs to spend some 10 h per working day for employment. Firewood costs 21 EUR per m3. And I need 60 m3 per year, moreover, it is better if I make firewood 3 years in advance. This is pointless to live in a country in such a condition, because there is no time and strength left for gardening, farming, cooking and other activities at home, that could save you money. Appartment in a town costs at least 150 EUR per month together with heating, water and electricity.

Good thing about European Union is the direct payments for farmers.  Idea of direct payments seems to me ridiculous, but if they give it, I’ll take it. I have to pay taxes after all. At the moment in Latvia it is about 75 EUR/ha/year. If you live in officially less favored area and own registered cattle, you receive additional 58 EUR. If you are organically certified and registered farmer, there are even more. If I have 23 ha of land then just for cutting grass I might receive 1725 EUR/year, with cattle –  3059 EUR/year (255 EUR/month). Minimal monthly wage is 206 EUR after taxes, if you work all year 5 days a week 8 h per day and have no children.

However one needs to spend about 33 EUR/ha if grass is cut by the machinery. But you can keep this money, if you do it ancient way – with a scythe. Physically healthy grownup man with a good 80 cm long scythe can cut 1 ha (10000 m2) per day or should I say night, because it is easier done if grass is covered with dew. Compromise between amount of grass and how easy it can be cut is between June 21 (directly after the summer solstice) and till June 29. After these dates grass gets too strong. It means a single person can easily cut 8 ha of grass per season.

To be honest, I started to cut grass in july and kept doing it in august too, but I’ve streched my back in the end, because I overdid it. I managed to cut only 0,5 ha per week during these months. Moreover, I destroyed my scythe. I used a modern with a metal handle, but it appeared to have a weak place – handles’ connection with a blade. I wore this point off since I often swing the blade against the ground, especially molerat made piles of earth and ant nests. I had to sharpen the blade after every 10 meters, which is not alright if you want your blade (cost ~ 10 EUR) to serve you long. I never forged and edge of the blade, which also is not good. As far I understand, it has to be done after every 100 hours of intensive work.

So I went to the shack and found old scythe with a wooden handle. Having old and dry wooden handle also was useless – it broke after first 100 square meters. In the end I ended up with only 1 ha grass cut this year. My neighbor cut additional 2 ha of my land with machine for her cow. Hunters made some peace of land arable and planted oats for wild pigs. Also I have small vegetable and apple tree gardens near the houses. So I will get cash for 6 ha (hopefully). I also have some savings and social insurance payment for unemployed 70 EUR per month till February. Then I hope they will give me some education opportunity with 100 EUR/month support or EinEuroJob. I will also receive back some money I paid for university from my income tax this year, which according to our legislation is no more than about 57 EUR per year.

I will use this money to pay my real estate tax, which is 300 EUR per year for 27 ha of nonforest land and buildings. Then I have to buy two cows for milk and two horses as a workforce or a mean for transportation – they will help me by eating grass and let me have right to receive less favored area payments next year. Of course some 50 EUR per year for mobile phone. Then other optional ways to spend money.

This year I cut less area then I applied to in agriculture department. I thought it is not allowed to change your data after June the 15th, so I was nervous and waiting until revision comes to check my land and fine me. As far as I know they use satellite or areal photos. Then one day this institution calls me and says, that I have overdeclared into my neighbors land. She said that this is a very big land owner in my parts and I must have mistaken and have to correct my maps. I asked her, if it is still possible. She said, yes, it’s alright to make your areas smaller or to delete them from the system. However it’s not alright if physical control has been scheduled for me, which was not yet so in my case. So I changed the drawings of my fields according to the real situation and worry no more.


About Pavels Melnis

Independent ecology activist, family farmer, gardener and forestkeeper. Musician: violin, guitar, singing. Hobbies: traveling by bicycle, learning to play different music instruments - accordion, piano, recorder flute, harmonica, drums; languages, theology, prehistory, logbuilding, repairing and recycling. Religious. Ecological. Love all things ethnic and traditional.
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One Response to Cutting grass – harvesting direct payments

  1. Pingback: Cutting grass – harvesting direct payments 2 – bad harvest | Pavels Melnis

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