In 2008, a small union of farmers came together to restore the agricultural lands of three abandoned villages. Elena Romanova and Vladislav Kirbatiev are among those collaborating for this vision. Using low-impact, organic methods, they produce fruits, vegetables, honey, and an ancient herb which was unexpectedly discovered during restoration.
“While we were clearing the fields from small trees, shrubs, and fireweed Chamaenerion angustifolium, an idea came to mind – the fireweed was traditionally used for the preparation of the tea-like product Kiprey tea,” recalls Elena.
The rising popularity of the traditional tea combined with the fact that the herb was flourishing on otherwise unproductive land was a good sign that the farmers should try adding it to their agricultural mix. Today it has become one of their most distinguishing products.
Combining modern measures with a traditional approach, Elena and Vladislav are committed to farming in a way that is as respectful to nature as possible. And they’re aware that staying true to this commitment requires thinking beyond property lines.
“Organic farming is not neutral in any way in terms of nutrient runoff,” says Vladislav. “While we don’t use commercial chemical pesticides and fertilizers, we realize that there can be some runoff from the soil anyway.”
To prevent nutrient runoff, Elena and Vladislav have enclosed their land with hedges and trees. They also work to maintain a good nutrient balance in the soil through crop rotation, and by applying fertilizing compost consisting of a mix of turf, manure, and food waste. Instead of using chemical pesticides, the farmers attract specific birds to the farm that hunt destructive insects. To further boost crop productivity and support local bee populations, a variety of plants and fruit trees with high nectar production are kept on the property.
“The agricultural land was not this productive when we started 11 years ago,” says Vladislav of the results.
Elena and Vladislav’s efforts are also bringing a sense of community back to life in the villages. Their community already collaborates in several ways – including by sharing compost, and by organizing rubbish and recycling collection in their region which otherwise does not benefit from waste man- agement services. They are currently introducing the concept of self-sustaining “environmentally friendly villages.”
“People joining our community agree that this kind of farming is how agriculture should look in the region,” says Elena.
In 2019, Elena Romanova and Vladislav Kirbatiev received the national Baltic Sea Farmer Award in recognition of their efforts to reduce nutrient runoff on their farm.
- Location: Sheltozero Village and Grishino Village in northwest Russia
- Type of farm: Organic and biodynamic crop farm (3 ha)
- Main production: Fruits, vegetables, Kiprey tea, and honey
- Key practices: Buffer zones, crop rotation, manure composting, no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, preservation of trees and shrubs
- National jury motivation: “The primary jury motivation this year is that Elena and Vladislav implement a good combination of basic how-to practices that help the group of farmers redevelop abandoned farmlands. These measures include planting hedges around fields to prevent wind from blowing off the upper soil level, crop rotation with use of leguminous plants, composting of organic waste from the farm which is used as fertilizer. These indeed are very basic measures but they are organic and support rebirth of old villages. Furthermore, this farm is a good example of how a cluster of small farms can collaborate to achieve both a low environmental impact and better production sales.”