Nature-friendly farming methods had been passed through the generations and practiced by Kanstantsin Chychyra’s parents long before he took over the family farm. When it was his turn, he too adopted these methods, and then he took things one step further: he certified the farm and became an organic farmer — one of only 15 in Belarus.
Kanstantsin has always worked in close proximity with nature, and first grew aware of the problem of eutrophication about ten years ago when his favorite lakes in his home region gradually started to turn green. After learning that the intensification of agriculture was contributing to the problem, Kanstantsin’s resolve to practice organic and responsible farming methods grew even stronger.
Growing a demanding crop like strawberries, it is not always easy using organic methods — especially when there are so few organic farms in the region to exchange knowledge with. It’s a constant learning process, and careful monitoring and creative solutions are often needed to resolve challenges.
After learning that the intensification of agriculture was contributing to the problem, Kanstantsin’s resolve to practice organic and responsible farming methods grew even stronger.
For soil fertilization, Kanstantsin uses a compost made of pesticidefree plant residues. In order to reduce the quantity of weeds, the straw is laid between the strawberry rows. After collecting the strawberry harvest,
the straw remains on the ground and eventually turns into a fertilizer.
To protect his crops from pests and disease without using chemicals, Kanstantsin uses an approach called allelopathy. Crops are planted together in such a way that protection is generated naturally. For example, garlic is planted next to the strawberries.
Since becoming organic certified, Kanstantsin has been sharing knowledge on environmental friendly methods with other farmers, and is enjoying growing recognition from customers who value his approach. His methods have even had a positive effect on the quality of drinking water.
According to official statistics, almost one third of all public wells in Belarus contain nitrates in quantities exceeding acceptable limits.However, in the village where Kanstantsin’s farm is located, no such problem exists.
In 2018, Kanstantsin Chychyra received the national Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award in recognition of his efforts to reduce nutrient runoff on his farm.
Location: Nakvasy village in northwestern Belarus
Type of farm: Organic farm (4 ha)
Main production: Strawberries and vegetables
Key practices: Organic crop production, composting, green manuring (siderates)
National jury motivation: “The jury acknowledges the positive dynamics on the farm and continuous improve- ment and development on an annual basis. The farm utilizes sustainable technolo- gies in plant cultivation, and farms free from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. The farm also effectively uses plant residues and produces compost.”