by Ani Melkonian
KARIN, Armenia--This tiny village with a population of 300 in the Sasunik district of Aragatsotn is attracting visitors from all over the world. The village boasts no historical monuments, churches, museums, or galleries. What it does have is a tree nursery where Armenia's supply of green goodness is cultivated.
Armenia Tree Project (ATP) opened the Karin Nursery in 1996 to have a continuous supply of trees for its planting initiatives, and to provide jobs for newly settled Armenian refugee families from Baku. Today, they are experts in tree propagation and are ready to share their knowledge and love for nature with the world through eco-tours.
ATP's "Green Tours" to Karin present an opportunity for visitors to see and learn about more than 150 different types of trees and shrubs, including both endemic (native) and non-native sorts. "Trees which have changed the history of medicine, trees whose leaves are edible, trees that fight off evil spirits, and even trees that give hugs are just a few of the fascinating things found in ATP's gardens," says Nursery Manager Samvel Ghandilyan.
Guests are shown the amazing journey trees take from seeds to seedlings. "We show visitors how trees are grown, grafted, irrigated, cultivated, and replanted at community sites across the country," adds Ghandilyan.
The tour includes a visit to ATP's greenhouses which are equipped with modern agricultural technologies, as well as the Michael and Virginia Ohanian Environmental Education Center, where visitors are likely to encounter schoolchildren learning about the environment. The center hosts more than 2,000 students of all ages from Armenia and the diaspora every year.
Guests contribute by paying a $20 fee for the tour and some even get their hands dirty doing nursery work.
"Our guests love seeing the endangered species which we grow here," says Karin Nursery Team Leader Svetik Tarjumanyan. "It's a quiet place but thanks to all the tourists it's gotten a bit more exciting to live here. They also enjoy seeing Ararat, Aragats, and Ara mountains all at once from this spot," she adds. Svetik's been with ATP since 1996.
After the nursery tour, a fresh, healthy "village style lunch" is offered under ATP's tent. But why end it there? Voskevaz Winery is just a 15 minute drive away and presents the chance to turn the Green Tour into a real countryside excursion. The combined nursery/winery tour is offered for $50.
Established in 1932, Voskevaz is the oldest functioning winemaking company in Armenia and uses both traditional old karases and modern technology in its production. In their medieval-style cellars, guests can learn about the different methods and secrets of winemaking and, of course, taste their selection.
If all the trees with superpowers and delicious local wine aren't action enough, ATP's Ashtarak Park is right next to the nursery and for a fee of $100 visitors get a chance to actually plant a tree and contribute to the greening activities of a new community which will shape around the park.
"Ashtarak Park is a great example of how ATP is transforming landscapes from desert to oasis, and inviting the public to be part of it," says Ghandilyan. "For many years, people have asked us how they can plant their own trees in Armenia, to get their hands dirty and put roots into the soil. Now with the establishment of ATP's park in Ashtarak, we are offering that opportunity to help with the greening of Armenia."
ATP welcomes individuals, church groups, and student groups. Tours are held weekly or more frequently during peak seasons. For more information, visit www.ArmeniaTree.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (617) 926-TREE in the USA, or (010) 447-401 in Armenia.