Progress-Vertelishki is one of the flagships of the Belarusian agricultural industry. It is a fast-growing company, an example for many in Belarus and beyond. The company has preserved the best practices of the Soviet times and embraced new technology. Over the past two decades, its output has nearly doubled. The pillars of success are advanced technology and conscientious work. BelTA journalists have traveled to one of the country's most progressive agro-towns to see how people live and work there.
Vertelishki is really one of the most prosperous agro-towns in Belarus and this is largely due to the Progress-Vertelishki company. “The company takes its corporate social responsibility seriously. Located just a few kilometers away from the oblast capital, the company is fully aware that if it offers worse conditions than companies in the city, local residents will prefer to find a job in Grodno,” Chairman of the Progress-Vertelishki company, Hero of Belarus Vasily Revyako said.
There is virtually no employee turnover at the company. The staff is not so young, with the average age approaching 42. However, this can be an advantage, as experienced and mature people know what they want from work and life and they are able to make the right decisions. However, young people also apply regularly.
“Housing is an important part of considerations for many, and this is right. It is housing that helps retain employees. As far as housing construction is concerned, we have advanced a lot in recent years. Over the past 20 years the company built about 200 apartments,” Vasily Revyako said.
Vertelishki no longer builds studios or one-bedroom apartments, because a small apartment is just a temporary solution, while a big apartment gives confidence in the future and is a kind of incentive to create a big family.
There is no central heating here. An inconvenience? For a rural worker it is more of an advantage. Cold or damp nights happen even in the summer, so people have an opportunity to regulate the temperatures in their homes.
“We are happy both with the conditions of work and everyday life. City life is not appealing,” farm machinery operator Vladimir Rebushev said. He noted that the length of his service at the company of more than 20 years is the best testament to this. The housing issue, of course, has been solved. The man bought out the house provided by the farm.
The agro-town has all the necessary infrastructure for comfortable living - shops, bank and post offices, a school, a kindergarten, and a community center.
Local residents have access to high-quality healthcare service. A new outpatient clinic with a daytime hospital designed for 50 visits per shift was commissioned in 2014. Now villagers do not have to go to the city for medical services.
“We do not envy the life of city dwellers. We have everything we need here. Plus, we have a stable salary, confidence in the future and our own housing,” pasteurizer Natalia Apanaschik explained the choice in favor of working in the village.
The younger generation is not neglected either. The company allocates funds to improve the infrastructure, maintain the kindergarten and the school, upgrade the playgrounds. Cultural affairs are in the spotlight too. The Song and Dance Company Niva, with the status of the Honored Amateur Company of the Republic of Belarus, is known far beyond Grodno District.
“We provide financial support for churches too. We help maintain the churches in good order, and are currently helping the community to build a Roman-Catholic church,” Vasily Revyako noted. He emphasized that it is important for people that everything necessary for life, including for the soul, should be at hand.
Progress-Vertelishki has become a trailblazer in one thing. A few years ago the company decided to take a better care of their elderly and organize their leisure time. The company together with the Grodno District Territorial Center for Social Services opened a hobby club for senior citizens. Now the club offers services in many areas - from rehabilitation to sports, from joint games to sightseeing trips and walking tours.
Visitors to the club sing songs, play billiards or chess, do their workout routines using fitness equipment, organize concerts, and learn to use the computer. Time spent with other people has a positive effect on the health and life expectancy of not-so-lonely-anymore elderly people.
The company regularly offers its employees holiday trips to the sea. It has already established ties with health resorts, both in Belarus and abroad.
A large vegetable garden of its own is a hobby rather than a necessity in Vertelishki. Workers say that salaries here are rather good, and milk, bread, and meat products made here are sold on the ground. A special facility was built in the vicinity of the agro-town where local residents can keep their animals instead of barns next to their houses. This way, the agro-town is neat and cozy.
These perks and benefits would have hardly been possible without a solid economic base. We asked Vasily Revyako about this. “Agriculture is the beginning of everything. Food security is a key priority for every country. Our enterprise has also contributed to strengthening Belarus' food security. For example, agricultural output rose by more than 1.7 times. Agricultural products have been becoming more and more competitive in terms of production costs. For example, gas consumption at the enterprise fell by 10 times over the past decade and electricity consumption decreased by 2.5 times,” Vasily Revyako said. Despite unfavorable weather conditions in recent years, Progress-Vertelishki has maintained uninterrupted operation, paid salaries in time, and keeps increasing salaries. The average salary at the enterprise exceeds Br1,000.
What is the secret of unstoppable growth? Vasily Revyako stressed again that it is a strong and professional team with competent specialists in all areas, nothing more.
“Naturally it is impossible to progress without science. We are seriously working on it. I am talking not only about personnel retraining, advanced training for specialists inside the country. We are also interested in foreign experience. Instead of blindly copying it we adapt the best practices to the local conditions,” the head of the company said.
Progress-Vertelishki is one of the largest agricultural enterprises in the region. Judge for yourself: over 10,000ha of farmland, about 1,000 workers, dozens of departments – manufacturing divisions, farms, a gardening brigade, animal feed enterprises, product processing, and other divisions.
The company has versatile business interests, which is another factor of successful work in the long term. If one division starts underperforming due to bad weather, market situation, or unfavorable developments abroad, the situation can be fixed by relying on the divisions that are more successful right now.
Many of the divisions use complete cycle production. This pertains to bread and many other products. The company has its own wheat, a flour mill, and a bakery. As much as 1.5 tonnes of fresh and tasty baking products is made every day.
Urban residents also like milk from Vertelishki. Most of the milk is processed, but about 12 tonnes is packaged into milk cartons every day. The demand for the product is stable.
There is a poultry processing division, too. Apart from creating additional value all of that allows earning so-called fast floating assets.
Gardening is another successful line of business, with product yields on par with Europe. The geography of sales is large. The company has even received a thank you from a Russian admiral: the Northern Fleet bought local apples and was satisfied with the quality of the product.
Customers also eagerly buy local blueberries and strawberries.
The company also has divisions outside the core business, for instance, a pottery division and a forge division. According to Vasily Revyako, their contribution to the company's coffers is small. But their aesthetic value is hard to overestimate. All the embellishments in town streets, manufacturing premises have been made by those specialists. All these sculptures, wrought benches or flower beds add to the atmosphere of comfort and coziness.
Photos by Leonid Shcheglov