Program Details



Starting Price
Price Details
An estimate based on previous participants experience is that living costs average around 350 USD per month including accommodation, bills and food costs. Our self catering volunteer house is basic but comfortable in a beautiful location around 20 minutes walk away from the project site. The house has Wi-Fi internet, a shared kitchen and bathrooms and a garden. Fruits and vegetables produced from the gardens are available to you from June onwards, and quality products such as eggs, milk, cheese, honey and meat can be purchased from local producers. For those that enroll for the full 6 month program, attendance to educational courses scheduled during their stay is free.
Feb 11, 2017
Jan 18, 2017
5 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

Can we provide nutritious affordable food whilst enhancing biodiversity? Would you like to be involved in finding out? Our pioneering research is taking a close look at what is involved by developing a 1/2 acre (2000m2) market garden consisting of herbs, vegetables and perennial fruit and nut polycultures. In 2017 we are expanding the study to include perennial polycultures trials and starting a new garden dedicated to this. Joining the project will give you hands-on work experience and insight into precisely what is involved in running a permaculture project and market garden. As well as the practical skills you will develop, we'll dedicate time each week to covering essential theory of your choice. Activities change week to week and may include the following:- soil building, propagating the crops, harvesting and processing produce, record keeping and helping with weekly veggie -boxes and food cooperative orders. We will also be working with entomologists to record insect levels.

Program Reviews

5.00 Rating
based on 4 reviews
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  • Impact 5
  • Support 5
  • Fun 5
  • Value 5
  • Safety 5
Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews
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Yes, I recommend this program

Fruitful times with Balkep

I've first spent few weeks with this project in 2015 then returned the next spring to take part from the beginning of the growing season to estabilish knowledge and applicable practices on how to grow crops in cooperation with nature (aka permaculture).
All described in their profile is absolutely accurate, now I am able to recreate such a garden through what I've learned by just working day-to-day in the garden and enriched via weekly theory sessions. For further studying of different fields of sustainable gardening there's an extensive home library available from the team and heaps of other interesting books - which comes handy in the wetter beginning of the season.
Must mention the opportunity of participating in their course was of tremendous value, providing insight on functioning pillars and detailed information of a permaculture garden ecosystem and presented ready for consumption for a whole week.

The Balkep team is such a welcoming, supportive family and that is priceless being far away from home. Cooperation or accommodating whatever is needed is the natural flow of life when at Balkep. Locals are also highly friendly, I mean we've been given freshly roasted peppers for our salad just 'cause we were passing by! and apples :)
Also Shipka is strategically located in the heart of Bulgaria at the crossroads of the mountains and the valley of roses which allowed for weekend trips to further discover the country - like thermal bath towns, the Black sea or cultural heritage cities. At the same time, if I was in the mood for just a walk -well, there's marked trekking routes starting just on the doorstep of the volunteer's house.

Absolutely recommend this project as a balanced mix of learning and adventure experience for those who are interested in horti/agriculture.

23 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Bulgarian polyculture study review

I took part in the 2016 Polyculture Market Garden Study with the Balkan Ecology Project. I started without much knowledge of gardening at all, but the hands-on work at the study sites, alongside the weekly theory lessons, helped me build an understanding of permaculture principles. By putting these into practice, I learnt how to create a productive polyculture market garden, and how to apply sustainable, eco-friendly design to a plot of land.

I also had time to complete an online Introduction to Permaculture course, travel to other Bulgarian towns on weekends, walk in the mountains and work in the home garden. We had the opportunity to get involved in the annual rose harvest, which was a really wonderful morning, and experienced the local rose festival.

Paul, Sophie and the boys are wonderfully warm, supportive and knowledgeable hosts, the study team were fantastic and Shipka is a very special place. I highly recommend getting involved!

24 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

The Polyculture Study helped me study nature, myself and those around me

Being a part of The Polyculture Study was a very special period of my life. It changed me a lot, for good. I realized how inspiring it is to be in touch with soil and plants, and creatures inhabiting the garden I worked in, and also to be in good touch with the people I worked with. I felt how fulfilling it is to grow the food you eat and to offer this food to others. I am happy to have had this opportunity to support the Study and the wonderful family behind it, and to be supported by them in return. I am grateful for everything I learned about nature, growing food sustainably, living in a community.
Sometimes it wasn't easy at all, growing food can be a very hard job. And this is even more stimulating - working hard makes you stronger, smarter and happier.
Living with other people can be a very hard job too, but again it makes you stronger, smarter and happier... and kinder.
I realized I am very keen on gardening and studying nature, and I want to do it forever.

What would you improve about this program?
Some of the tools could use some improvements.
25 people found this review helpful.
Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderful adventure in the world of biodiversity

It's a nice journey that give a chance for depth study (like univercity) in your free time (there is plenty of free time) if you prefer to get everything that this Study offer - Paul, the host, is like encyclopaedia Britannica - he can give you personal task to practice, or help you with your univercity project. If you have your own place you can figure out the pefect design there is plenty of valuable books that is helping you to study on the field, outdoor, indoor, wherever you like. The tempetare climate in Bulgaria is offer the bigest biodiversity in Europe for sure (mountain, sea side, the border with the subtropics, species that you can not find in Europe).

If you want to get only basic (but still verry professional) theorethical and practical experience, or if you need to work online for 2-3 hours daytime, or you prefer just to do your job conscientiously and use your free time for travelling - you have the mountain for neighbor, you need 4 hours by car to go and back to the Black sea and many other options for fun. The beer is verry good and cheap :) For my 5 months of staying, i succeed to take a peace of everything that i write about above...

The hosts are lovely people...like verry old friends for me now after 5 months. Enjoy and don't hesitate much! Just do it! :)

What would you improve about this program?
The housing was a little bit disturbing. The house and the standart was really good but the landlord was verry annoying person (probably because he was old and lonely, he miss the love), but they told me that they found a better place with good lanlord, so everything should be perfect now. I trust BALKEP for sure!
27 people found this review helpful.

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