Winning farms|19 Jan, 2019

The large organic farm where healthy soil, happy animals and a clean seaside are top priorities

Estonia_Ivar and Maarja showing their stables

Located right next to the Baltic Sea, Saareõue OÜ is a family farm started by Ivar Baumann’s parents in 1986 with 16 cattle and 40 hectares of land. Today, it has grown to 600 hectares upon which Ivar and his wife Maarja Maksimov tend to vast fields of organic grain, coastal meadows, and 170 Aberdeen Angus cows who spend their summers grazing seaside pastures.

“It’s an old known truth that if you want some- thing from the land, you have to give back,” says Ivar. Ivar and Maarja have been dedicated to organic farming since taking over the farm, and have maintained chemical-free production methods even as the farm has expanded. Ivar’s experience as the founder of an organization that tests organic methods and fertilizers on farms across Estonia further contributes to the problem-solving mindset that is sometimes required on the farm. “Our big problem was the manure,” says Ivar. “There wasn’t enough space for it, and we did not want to store it on the fields in a pile.”

It’s an old known truth that if you want something from the land, you have to give back.

Since some of their fields are located far from the farm, Ivar and Maarja had decided to concentrate manure in one spot to reduce transportation costs. But storing it on the field took up too much space, increased the risk of nutrient leaching, and created swampy field conditions during spreading.

The solution was building a new, covered manure storage building. Today, its thick floor, walls, and angled roof keep manure sheltered and prevent nutrient runoff. Manure is composted in three stages together with algae or bacteria, then spread on mild spring days using a spreader with a precise weighing system according to soil sample insights.

Other measures used that keep nutrients in the soil include crop rotation, year-round soil cover, and the maintenance of buffer zones and permanent grasslands. Ivar and Maarja also help maintain the openness and vitality of the native landscape by allowing their cows to graze the coastal meadowlands.

“The thing we hadn’t considered with seaside pastures is the garbage the sea brings,” says Ivar. “We have to clean the pastures once or twice a year, and the amounts are huge – bottles, plastic, paper, et cetera.” All of their sustained efforts have been well worth it, however.

“Local people and our neighbours are happy,”reports Ivar. “The seaside is clean and maintained. Thanks to the new manure storage building ‘the smell’ is no longer spreading so intensively. Our local beekeepers are very happy. And business is on the rise.”

In 2019, Ivar Baumann and Maarja Maksimov received the national Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award in recognition of their efforts to reduce nutrient runoff on their farm.

FARM FACTS
  • Location: Metsapoole Village in southwest Estonia
  • Type of farm: Organic crop and livestock farm (500 ha)
  • Main production: Grain, fabacae plants, Aberdeen Angus cattle
  • Key practices: Buffer zones, composting, crop cover year­round, crop rotation, manure management, minimal tillage, no chemical fertiliz­ers or pesticides, nutrient recycling, permanent grasslands, soil analysis
  • National jury motivation: “Saareõue is a large­scale organic farm that has made healthy soil and healthy animals its priority, and has the curiosity to test new farming practices. The farm demonstrates that environmentally conscious cultivation and breeding can be used in larger farms. Further­more, the family running the farm is a great example of the efforts a farmer can make to minimize the impact it has on the environment, especially considering its location right next to the Baltic Sea. The farm keeps healthy soils in high regard: fertilizing is optimized by regularly taking soil and manure samples and using crop­ rotation and winter crops to keep the nutrients in the soil. The farm has also made notable investments in manure management: there is a new fully covered construction for storing and handling manure.”

Last modified 18/02/21

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