After a short and insightful trip to Romania, I looked forward to spending a few nights in one spot. Sunday we arrived in Tirana, the country’s capital, and drove about 45 minutes to our hotel in Durres. The view was spectacular from our hotel facing the Adriatic coastline; however it was appropriately located in the business section of Durres as we immediately left for a meeting with a new contact in Albania. The first business Integra has opening in Albania is called ‘Kingdom Farming.’ It is an herb farm started by an entrepreneur names Miri. Miri plans to grow and sell organic Blue Malva, and several other herbs starting this month. In order to learn more about the legal requirements for such a farm, we met with Sokal, the man in charge of certifying the farm organic. Sokal is a Christian man and was identified through the same church Miri goes to. He proved to be a knowledgeable consultant on the matter. Sokal told us that while it takes about three years to complete organic certification, Miri’s products can be labeled as “organic in transition” in the meantime. This information should be helpful when marketing the herbs of Kingdom Farming to potential buyers.
After meeting with Sokal we went to dinner with Leda, head of Radio 7. Her station is the first and only Christian radio station in Albania. Integra USA is looking to partner with Leda as she looks to expand her radio station to Kosovo, and tries to get into television. As part of this process, Integra has connected Radio 7 with a potential sister station, Olivet Nazarene University’s Shine FM. ‘Shine’ sent two representatives, Carl and Brian, to meet with Leda and visit the Radio 7 station, and they joined us for dinner. It was a pretty laid back meeting and we planned for further discussion on Tuesday after Carl and Brian had a chance to meet with Leda.
Monday we spent most of our time with Miri. We went out to his farm as early as possible but we still couldn’t avoid the heat. The land had just been plowed, and Miri showed us the well that had just been installed to irrigate his crops. After sweating it out on the dusty, humid farm, we went to meet with an attorney to discuss ownership structure, and registration of Kingdom Farming. During the meeting talks turned toward purchasing the land rented by Miri. The cost to rent is about $80 per acre however to buy that same land Miri estimated it would cost close to $50 thousand per acre. At first this price sounded ridiculous but it was termed believable by both the attorney, and Peter. This seemingly outrageous price represented a strange cultural perception on the price of land. It was pointed out by Peter that in many cases, the land has been owned by one family for centuries. Another contributing factor is the redistribution of land following communism. Publically held land when Albania was ruled by communism was given away in privately owned sections. For many people this is the first and only property they have owned, and carries immense sentimental value. Finally people expect the real estate market to return to its highs of 2008 in an unrealistic amount of time. Renting the land obviously makes the most sense for Miri in the foreseeable future, and he hopes to draw up a leasing agreement to increase the security of his farmland.
Tuesday on our last day in Albania, the day was spent with Leda. We began the day at the radio station where Peter, and Joe shared the Integra model of Business as Mission on the air. After the interview, we received a brief tour of the station and then we headed to the mountains to check out the radio antenna. Once we were at the antenna, a structure Leda hopes to duplicate in Kosovo, we had a beautiful view of Tirana. We ate lunch in a mountain top restaurant and discussed the future of Leda’s Christian Media outlet. It was great to have the help of Brian and Carl. They each had great knowledge of radio, and Brain also brought the experience of working in television in South America. They were able to give Leda a lot of good ideas and things to consider when determining the amount of capital needed to get her TV station off the ground. Leda has some work to do on her business plan but the only Christian media outlet in predominantly Muslim Albania bring huge benefits to Kingdom growth and our goals in this Business as Mission Ministry.

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