A Glance at Greece: Agriculture

A Glance at Greece: Agriculture

Greece is known for a selection of quality and uniquely characterized agricultural products. While certain regions continue to thrive, others suffered over the years due to emigration of the rural community into urban areas and other factors. However, Greece continues to export a myriad of high-quality agriculture products from both family-owned and cooperative farms. Go Greek restaurant in Garden City, N.Y prides itself in using many unique Greek ingredients in continuing their mission of bringing healthy, authentic Greek cuisine to Long Island.

Agriculture in Ancient Greece


Traditional Greek olive oil press in Crete

Agriculture played a major role in the prosperity of the city-states that made up the Greek civilization. Similar to many farms, orchards, and vineyards in modern Greece today, private individuals grew crops and reared the livestock. This differed from other civilizations in which states controlled agriculture. While farms in Athens were relatively small, the larger farms were located in Sparta where the richer citizens farmed. 

Fun fact: Owner of Go Greek Tommy Matheos’ parents were born outside the ancient city of Sparta. Today, the family still produces olive oil from the historic trees on their property.


An olive tree on Tommy Matheos’ family’s property in Southern Greece

Naturally, farmers chose crops for their ability to thrive in the Mediterranean climate. This climate is known for dry, hot summers and mild winters with heavy rainfall. Due to the irregular rainfall, crops like wheat would often fail every few years or so. The soil also impacted the ability to farm the land. Only one-fifth of Greece has arable land. With that being said, farmers continue to make the best use of it.

Modern Greek Agriculture

Over the last few decades the European Union has intervened in agriculture endeavors in Greece. Farmers, about 528,000 today, make up 12 percent of the country’s workforce. However, it only produces 3.6 percent of the national GDP. Nonetheless, Greek farmers take pride in the variety of crops and livestock products they export. 

A recent initiative called “agricultural products basket” has Greek regions presenting and promoting their products to a wider public on both domestic and international levels. Supported by the Ministry of Rural Development and Food, this initiative seeks to establish a regional identity. 

Greece is moving towards a more competitive and market-oriented agriculture. They also aim to establish a greener and more sustainable agriculture. Another focus is the promotion of the Mediterranean-Greek diet. The country seeks to emphasize the high nutritional value of Greek products from land and sea. Restaurants like Go Greek bring that mindset to America by sticking to a “made-from-scratch” approach to cuisine with fresh, clean ingredients.

Agriculture Excellence in Greece: PDO and PGI Products

According to the Greek Embassy, many products won international acclaim over the years with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) declarations. These certification marks created by the European Union represent excellence in European food production. 

PDO identifies a product originating in a specific place, region or country, whose quality or characteristics are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment. A product certified PDO tells a consumer the production, processing and preparation steps of which all take place in the defined geographical area was regulated and authenticated. Similarly, PGI designates a product originating in a specific place, region or country whose given quality, reputation or other characteristic is essentially attributable to its geographical origin and at least one of the production steps of which takes place in the defined geographical area. Ultimately, only those products that demonstrate a consolidated and codified production tradition, an inseparable tie with the area of origin, an appropriate socio-entrepreneurial fabric and which succeed in achieving high qualitative levels are awarded such certification.

Greece has approximately 94 PDO/PGI entries. Most notably, the European Union recognizes Greece for:

  • Olives/olive oil
  • Cheeses
  • Wines
  • Mastic (aromatic gum/resin)
  • Saffron

Agrotourism

Also known as rural tourism, agrotourism recently developed in Greece. Visitors to the country take guided tours at Greek farms to learn about the relationship between the people and the land. Tourists can actually help pick olives and take part in the traditional art of extracting oil. Additionally, they can harvest grapes or pick fruits, herbs, and mushrooms. Animal lovers can observe cattle grazing and milking or even participate in the yogurt and cheese-making procedures.


Villager Salad at Go Greek

Go Greek restaurant, located in Garden City, N.Y., takes inspiration from the agricultural heart of Greece that shapes its cuisine. Owner Tommy Matheos found inspiration from the simplicity of ingredients harvested by his grandmother like fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, dried oregano, and olive oil. By utilizing fresh, high-quality ingredients they embody an authentic Greek cuisine experience – no flight to Europe required.