Vitalii Lupynos, Known as «Farmer in the Ammunition»
Vitalii Lupynos is a farmer from Zaporizhia who started planting season, even though his farm is extremely close to the battle line. Staff in the fields work in bulletproof vests and helmets, risking their lives. Helicopters are flying low above the tractors working in the fields.
Vitaly’s farm, which is located in the small town of Komyshuvakha (Zaporizhzhia region), is called “Lev”. It has 2,000 hectares of land and employs 20 workers. The farm grows predominantly winter wheat and barley, sunflower, rapeseed, and a little corn. This year, they have also planted lentils.
The danger for Vitaly’s farm is that there is fighting 30 km from their fields. Last week, there was a serious shelling from those places: 60 houses were damaged, 4 houses burned down, and 1 civilian died. This year, about 90 hectares of farm have been under occupation, and about 250 hectares have been under intense fighting, where they cannot get to cultivate winter wheat.
The farm is currently working on reserves that were purchased before the beginning of 2022. Vitalii says that they are running out of seeds, but fertilizers are still available. The biggest problem that production is facing now is the lack of fuel. The price of fuel before the war (February 23) was about 26 UAH, and now, commercial companies offer Vitalii to buy fuel at 70 UAH per liter, which is three times more expensive. The farm needs about a ton of fuel per day for the full cycle (planting, cultivation, spraying, etc.), and gas stations now give 10-20 liters per person. Therefore, thanks to the fact that Vitalii has a special pass, he goes to the gas station at night (during curfew, when there are no huge queues) and asks to give him a little more fuel, of course at higher prices. Although, at the moment, it does not help, because missiles have destroyed most of the huge storages of fuel around Ukraine.
Two men who worked on the Lev farm went to war, and several workers from surrounding villages were forced to leave their homes due to significant damage, trying to find a place to live in the center of their district – the city of Zaporizhzhia. All other people work, but with special equipment (bulletproof vests and helmets), which were provided by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
There is also the problem of mined fields, which were hit by cluster bombs from the «Smerch» installations – a large missile containing about 72 small warheads with white ropes. When farmworkers saw such bombs in the fields, they called the SES. At the first attempt to clear the field, one of the sappers exploded on a shell and died. The second group of sappers successfully demined the field.
Vitalii singled out another problem they faced – a program developed by the state to lend to farmers. He says: “I understand that there exist more severe issues in our country: war, defense, and humanitarian crisis, but if the state does not support us, there will be a food crisis, which I have already encountered.” The farmer applied for this loan 2.5 months ago (at the beginning of the program), and still has not received funding. From his point of view, the mechanism does not work. They have already exhausted their seed reserves. Of the 1,200 hectares planned for planting, about 500 hectares remain unsown, and they cannot borrow money from anyone, because all people are trying to save.
Despite the fighting, Vitalii’s farm is functioning. However, as he says, they can stop working any time, because they have nothing – no fuel, no seeds. The farmworkers themselves say they have their own battlefield, and they call it the “second front”.