Among the things I miss in Armenia is quinoa (I would use it in lieu of rice and also to make my salads heartier) so it’s fateful that I recently met Taline Kevonian. Taline is originally from Los Angeles and the founder of Meline’s Garden, the only producer of quinoa in Armenia (Meline is both her middle and her grandmother’s name). Thanks to quinoa’s benefits, both for the consumer and for the soil, Taline decided to follow the recent vegan movement here and started Meline’s Garden this March. She’s the brains, while Igor Ghazarian — a farmer she met in 2001 when she participated in Land and Culture in Tatev — is the brawn. Currently she’s only working in the Halidzor region, but plans on expanding four to six hectors per season elsewhere in the future.
Taline’s background is quite impressive. She got a double masters in International Affairs, Conflict Resolution, and Civil Society Development in Paris, plus another masters in International Development in Washington D.C. She’s also lived in Brazil and New York. Though she doesn’t stay in Armenia permanently, she feels a connection and visits often.
Besides providing agricultural diversity in Armenia, Taline also loves the social impact aspect of her job. In fact, she admitted to me that she enjoys this part way more than the business side. She employs disabled individuals to do her packaging and has created jobs for boys that just come back from military service. In essence, she would hate to see the villages our soldiers fought so hard for empty out — with Meline’s Garden, Taline hopes to provide enough jobs and security to make people want to stay. One of her goals is to get Igor’s son, who works in Russia, to return home and join his father. Support Taline’s venture and simultaneously reap the benefits of quinoa (it has 9 amino acids that our body can’t produce!) by shopping her product at JL Spices and at one of the Haleb Stores in Yerevan.