Zdorovaya Strana Farm was founded in 2016, following a conversation between Vitaly Belooky and a businessman named Valentin Baiko, who was determined to realize his dream of a farm that could produce natural products in line with a healthier lifestyle and environment. “Lots of questions appeared later, of course: How can it practically be realized, which methods and approaches should we choose?” recalls Vitaly.
As the first organic farm in Belarus of its size, a huge amount of labor, financial investment and experimentation were required. “There are no textbooks on organic products, there are no flow sheets,” says Vitaly. “You need to constantly analyse, understand the biology of plants and pests, and look for methods and technologies yourself.”
With no national standards and few examples to guide organic farming in Belarus, Vitaly and his team learned through experimentation and cooperation with other organic farmers and environmental organizations across Europe. In 2018, the farm was certified as organic according to European Union standards.
Implementing measures that minimize nutrient run-off has been a natural part of operations at the farm from the beginning. “We understand that there cannot be any healthy people or healthy food without a healthy environment,” says Vitaly. “So everything is important – clean water, biodiversity, climate. Everyone has at least seen one terrible picture of a eutrophic lake or river, and this is one of the reasons why we use organic standards at our farm.”
In addition to abstaining entirely from the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, Vitaly and his team use composted manure and biological preparations for soil nutrition, and have switched to subsoil tillage to promote optimal water exchange within the soil. They also actively promote bio- diversity through polyculture, creating habitats for beneficial insects, and rotating in disease-resistant crops – in a seven-field crop rotation method – during transition periods to further reduce nutrient loads and activate healing processes in the soil.
Since implementing these measures, soil quality has significantly increased, while energy costs and the amount of required fieldwork has decreased. “Once the living environment was formed, microorganisms appeared in it,” says Vitaly. “The ecosystem has been restored and now everything regulates itself.”
“There was also a big transformation in peoples’ minds,” he adds. “We’ve shown other farmers and the local community that the alternative way of producing food really works.”
In 2019, Vitaly Belooky received the national Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award in recognition of his efforts to reduce nutrient runoff on Zdorovaya Strana Farm.
- Location: Liudvinava village in west Belarus
- Type of farm: Organic crop farm (270 ha)
- Main production: Grain, perennial grasses, berries, cherries, apples, garlic, phacelia, mustard, honey
- Key practices: Organic production, composted manure, crop rotation, subsoil tillage
- National jury motivation: “Adhering to the rules of the organic standard, Zdorovaya Strana reduces green house gas emissions. In addition,
due to the technologies used, the pesticide load on the soil, water resources and the environment as a whole is reduced. Due to the rejection of the use of chemically synthesized fertilizers, the migration of nutrients to groundwater and surface water is reduced. At the same time, water bodies are protected from eutrophica tion, and drinking water sources from pollution by nitrates. The activity of the farm also has a positive effect on the social aspects of the life of the region, since a significant number of additional jobs are created (for about 90-100 people), which is very important for rural areas in Belarus.”