at Ljubljana’s Posestvo Trnulja
Breakfast with donkeys? Hemp linen? A five star organic breakfast? This was no ordinary Slovenian farmstay. Posestvo Trnulja, on the Ljubljana marshes, is a farm on a mission; to teach the world about hemp and health and another way of living and eating.
Organic Food and Donkey Therapy
Hemp farmer Ursa Kunz has a long term goal to offer harassed business people breakfast with her donkeys.
“Donkeys calm you down. If you had breakfast with a donkey you wouldn’t be in a hurry to do everything. If I am overworked, I go into the pasture. The donkeys want to touch you and they want you to touch them. In fifteen or twenty minutes you are another person.”
Nature is the great destresser
In her mission to de-stress harassed managers from around Ljubljana, Ursa will serve them the kind of food that shepherds ate in the pastures, as well as detox them with clean air and exposure to nature.
She sends me down to the donkey field at the bottom of her farm to imagine how it might be. In the cool early morning sunshine the donkeys look at me suspiciously; as do their two snow white guard dogs. Perhaps they can sniff out someone who preferred to take her team to the pub than do Myers Briggs personality assessments on an away-day.
Donkey on the menu
Pleasant as it is hanging out with donkeys, the experience is nothing compared to the relaxation involved in eating one of Ursa’s breakfasts. To say it is a five star meal doesn’t do it justice. There is an entire table of food just for five of us. The donkeys make an appearance here too; along with the farmstead goats, in the form of salami. Hannah eyes it warily.
“Is it really donkey?” I can tell she’s imagining tucking into Donkey from Shrek.
There’s also, in no particular order; stuffed peppers, fruit, home made bread with seven types of grain, two types of homemade biscuit, and tarragon cake. There’s yoghurt, cereal, soya spreads, a plate of cheeses, ham and salad. There’s grape juice and good coffee and eggs scrambed with chives with a dollop of soft cheese. Every single thing on the table is organic. And Ursa knows exactly where everything came from; the herbs are from her garden, the cheese is from her neighbour, the mozzarella from a local organic shop, the honey and marmalades are produced in her kitchen. Most of it comes within a few kilometres of this hemp farm on the outskirts of Ljubljana in Slovenia.
After just 10 minutes in her company it becomes clear that Ursa is not a woman who does anything by halves. She went into farming without knowing anything about the practicalities. Once the farm was up and running, her bank was taken over by Russians so she learnt Russian to negotiate further loans. She translates her flyers into seven languages and keeps her Facebook page updated multilingually.
Ursa trained as an economist in Vienna. Before this venture the closest she came to nature was relaxing with her horses at Grand Prix dressage competitions after a hard week in the office. Her husband Miha Pupis was then an engineer for air transportation and the closest he came to nature was keeping a few goats. But no one who knew the force of her personality could have doubted her. Even when it became a grand plan involving tourist accommodation and a restaurant. And even when she resolved to make everything organic. Everything. From every ingredient served in the restaurant to the hemp sheets we sleep on, it’s all as organic as it comes.
Farming meets tourism
Their timing was good. Hemp is their main product and in 2004, when Slovenia joined the EC, Ursa and her husband were the first farm in the country to be allowed to cultivate hemp fields. It’s an unusual choice for a Slovenian farm, but the couple threw themselves into it; figuring out as they went how to use the machinery to harvest the crop and extract the oil. But an economist by training doesn’t put all her organic eggs in one basket.
When they first found the delapidated building that became their home, it was covered in brambles ‘like sleeping beauty’s tower.’ With the help of European funding Ursa built apartments for farmstay tourist accommodation to the most high quality spec she could afford. They are beautiful, traditionally furnished cottage style apartments that come with all mod cons like plasma TV and coffee machine. Despite this, Posestvo Trnulja Farmstay struggles as much as any tourist business in a worldwide recession, hampered by a common perception that farm holidays should be cheap. “But I think our guests have the feeling that we are doing our best for them, not that we just take some money and send them home,” Ursa explains.
A seven day business
Even God supposedly rested on the seventh day but Ursa doesn’t. She opens her doors on a Sunday to locals and tourists with an all organic lunch fest including special recipes for anyone allergic to gluten. And of course, plenty of hemp ingredients including noodles and milk. “We would like to become known as a place for healthy living for burnt out people to recover. They could spend one or two weeks getting better here. Healthy food, good air and no communication with the world.”
Except, of course, the donkeys.
The healthy slot machine
One of her more novel ideas is a chilled drinks dispensing machine in her front garden. But it doesn’t give out Coke or Fanta. Instead people pick up a range of healthy oils and seeds. Ursa hears the clinking of bottles at all times of the day and night. “One man who only has one third of a stomach travels 70km a month to buy it. He cannot live without my oil anymore,” she smiles. She is passionate about the healing qualities of hemp oil and its contribution to the immune system. “You just take one spoonful a day. I do it. My dog does it.”
But then she is passionate about everything. She asks my opinion about the donkey breakfasts. Would they work? With Ursa at the helm I have no doubt that they would. This woman could probably turn a donkey into a world class chef. That’s if she wasn’t putting it into a five star organic breakfast.
Disclosure Note: Our thanks to Ursa Kunz at Posestvo Trnulja, Spirit Slovenia and staff from the Ljubljana Tourist Office for helping host us at Posestvo Trnulja and enabling us to bring you this story. The experience, views and opinions remain, as ever, entirely our own.