“After such a long period of unemployment, everybody understands that we have to do something,” said Dimitrios Botsos, 51, who spent decades working for large companies and a nongovernmental organization before being laid off in 2008. His wife is also jobless.
His grandparents were farmers, he said, but neither he nor his parents knew much about agriculture. Still, he said, farming is the obvious fallback for tough times.
“The land is there,” he said. “All you need is your hands.”
That, he said, is the best recipe for Greece’s economic comeback — not an IMF and European Union recipe that involves billions of dollars of foreign investment.
“If this machine needs lubrication, we should do it ourselves,” he said.
Getting by with less
The aspiring farmers are not the only people looking at the Greek economy and wondering what went wrong. Even the IMF has retreated significantly in its push toward austerity, saying this year that government spending cuts had a much harsher effect on economies than it had previously estimated. It has pushed for E.U. countries to forgive a portion of the debt Greece owes them to make Greece’s burden more sustainable.
Many Greeks have simply adapted to getting by with less. An open-air food market in one northern Athens neighborhood was packed near closing time one recent afternoon, with shoppers swarming the stands because they knew farmers would be eager to sell their merchandise for a bargain.
“Potatoes, they don’t drop in price,” said Katarina Milioni, 45, who was a carpet saleswoman until she was laid off last year. “But fish, they do.”
“People buy a lot less,” she said. “Things have gotten a lot harder.”
Elinda Labropoulou contributed to this report.