Vasily Blokin-Mechtalin: Our Dacha is a real mini-state!

Partner, a farm firm which will celebrate its first serious anniversary soon (on September 17 the company turns five) will present highlights of its products at Flowers&City 2019. Its founder and CEO Vasily Ivanovich Blokin-Mechtalin shared how such a small team managed to escalate to a serious enterprise in a short term, what supported its solid reputation of seed producer and supplier as well as a reliable partner.

– How did Partner appeared, who stood at its origins? Where did it start?
– The company was founded on September 17, 2014. I used to have another business before – a large night club, a restaurant, a car service centre. But I always went to the house in the country to relieve stress – I set out plants in greenhouses and in the open ground. I was quite a no-nonsense devotee of growing plants. I saw no prospects in the entertainment sector, so I thought: why not to open my own small shop at VDNH to sell seeds? To start with buying seeds – proved varieties – from well-known producers and then to introduce my own improved varieties working with selection of a tomato group. On September 17, 2014 I founded my seed shop and named it “Semena” (‘Seeds’).
I started close cooperation with plant breeders of tomato, cucumber and pepper groups to select interesting varieties and hybrids in order to start co-producing seeds and selling them under our own brand. It happened exactly one year after the opening of the shop. Then I thought that we were partners with horticulturists and gardeners, so a new name – “Partner” – appeared.
– The motto of your company is “a businessman is a person who did something new and useful for people, but never imitated others.” Why are your products so unique?
– We offer a lot of new tomato hybrids for protected open ground that have amazing palatability traits despite being created on a sterile basis. That’s because sterile-based hybrids tend to lose palatability traits. However we – plant breeders of Partner farm firm and me – went to considerable lengths, and this year we would like to offer our buyers hybrids that are resistant to the main complex of diseases, but taste not worse or maybe even better than famous varieties. Our customers are horticulturists, and often they think that varieties are much sweeter than hybrids. In fact, serious selection efforts can result in a hybrid that will be, on the contrary, sweeter and more delicious than any variety.
– You breed and produce high-quality seeds on your own testing ground with a self-explanatory name “Dacha” (‘house in the country’). Why “Dacha”?
– It’s the same dacha, where I used to relieve stress after work in entertainment business. It started with six decares of land once given to my grandparents. I used to grow something there since I was a kid. Now it’s grown up: I bought an adjoining lot, then another one, another and another. Eventually, I bought almost all the country out. I had the road there paved at my own expense – 2.5 km; I had the country wired for electricity and put on to the water mains – the whole shooting match. Now we have our own mini-state there.
– Who works with you at Dacha? Tell us a few words about your team.
– There’s a whole group of plant breeders. Nikolai Petrovich Fursov is a well-known TV host and a horticultural breeder – he’s one of our best breeders, in tomato group in particular. Vladislav Igorevich Antyufeev, Head of Wholesale and Retail, went through fire and water with us; it’s him who helped our organization to come to an adequate level. Alexander Alexandrovich Skvortsov is the person I started this business staying behind the counter of the shop. Now he is Head of Production, who is fully responsible for production of hybrids and packaging, and its a very serious task. In total, there are 82 employees.
– What do you think today’s consumers – gardeners, horticulturists and common allotment gardeners need most of all?
– Consumers definitely need information – a clear and complete picture. They need crop productivity, taste and resistance, but how will they be aware of these aspects? Trying themselves? But they don’t know how to do it correctly. Offering professional tomato hybrids (we also deal with cucumbers, peppers, eggplants) is not enough – it needs to be grown using a professional approach. Not in a habitual way when a seed is thrown in the ground to wait when it grows by itself. No. A certain approach is required – care and knowledge provided in an intelligible form.
We provide knowledge via our YouTube channel, the most possible Russian farm firm channel. We clearly explain how to get adequate crop and adequate plants from our seeds. Besides, we tell about every variety sold by Partner. We produced Lyubasha tomato – surf the internet to watch videos with participation of Director General, plant breeder and agriculturist, where we show how we grow it, what it makes and what its fruits look like in cross-cut and length cut, and assess its palatability traits. Our line comprises a large number of varieties and hybrids, and there are videos about each of them.
We never pander to those who go after crop productivity. We measure results of our work not in sales, but in a level of customers’ trust and respect. My last name and reputation of the company are above profit. Money are on the second place.
– You always stimulate customer demand with all kinds of competitions, such as “Best Crop of Tomatoes by Partner 2019”. You even held the first Hot Garden beauty contest among female allotment gardeners in the world! How are these ideas born? What surprises are waiting ahead prepared by you for your clients?
– We work with the best TV hosts in the country and the best bloggers. It’s them who suggest ideas. We process them at meetings, correct, direct and fund them. And we give the youth a chance to realize their potential. I’m not going to speak about surprises: the problem is as soon as we tell anything about forthcoming events, our competitors present similar concepts. We respect them, but still we’ll not share our secrets.
– What will your company present at the Flowers&City Exhibition? What do you recommend visitors of your stand to pay attention to?
– This year a very interesting line of bi-colors in terms of their color will be presented at Flowers&City. It’s what tomatoes of several colors are called, e.g. crimson with orange stripes. And they will be sweet. We’ll present a series of these hybrids, including short-grown, medium-grown and indeterminate ones, having unusual colors and amazing resistance to diseases. And they will definitely have great palatability traits. Hybrids used to possess appeal and crop productivity, but were savorless. And now our hybrids are delicious and appealing and productive. Vines don’t chink, fruits don’t slough and least of all suffer from late blight – it can even not ruin them at all, because they will either crop before late blight or be tolerant to it. Also there will be a few new varies presented this year.
– Why is participating in Flowers&City valuable to you?
– The exhibition gives a chance to talk to our customers not through gadgets, but tete-a-tete. All senior management of the farm firm come; we sell our seed packages personally handing them to people. And the main thing is that we socialize with our buyers during the exhibition; it’s solely worth participating!