Markus and Minna have been interested in environmentally friendly cultivation for a long time and have always paid great attention to soil structure and tilling methods, even before shifting to organic production in 2010.
They grow a diverse selection of crops at their farm and also manage grasslands that are used for producing green manure. Together with large buffer zones, the grasslands provide erosion control and ensure nutrient retention in the soil.
Precision agriculture methods form the basis for all activities at Knehtilä Farm, and include using advanced technology to analyze the soils and adapting the use of equipment to fit different conditions. These efforts have resulted not only in optimal soil structure and reduced nutrient runoff, but also in optimal yields and increased economic returns for their farm.
“Precision farming is central for everything we do in the field,” explains Markus. “Using advanced technology, we know better what kind of soil we have in the different parts of the fields, and how nutritious it is. That helps us to optimize the inputs.”
Markus and Minna are very proactive in collaborating with other farms, companies, researchers and organizations, and have been part of numerous national and international agri-environmental projects. In the most recent one, they are researching new ways of producing local and organic food that is nutrient and energy self-sufficient. The project is being carried out within a large multi-enterprise network that is the first of its kind in Finland, and will serve as a model for similar future efforts.
“Collaboration between many stakeholders is needed if we really want to change things,” says Markus. “It’s the only way to develop sustainable farming measures and also to implement them.”
Winner of the 2015 Baltic Sea Farmer Award
In 2015, Markus Eerola and Minna Sakki-Eerola became the regional winners of the Baltic Sea Farmer Award, in recognition of their outstanding efforts to reduce nutrient runoff on their farm—and help save the Baltic Sea.
“Winning the Finnish competition was already an honor for us – winning the regional one is just unbelievable,” says Markus. “It gives us strength to keep up our work; sharing good practices and collaborating with different actors. After all, cooperation and a positive attitude are central to being able to achieve more sustainable agriculture.”
Location: Hyvinkää in southern Finland
Type of farm: Organic crop farm (340 ha)
Main production: Crops including grains, faba bean, turnip rape, buckwheat and pea-oat mixtures
Key practices: Tube composting method, precision farming, tilling measures, crop diversification, catch crops, grasslands, buffer zones, stream restorations, numerous innovative projects for more sustainable energy and nutrient use
International jury motivation:
“The jury is proud to present Markus Eerola and Minna Sakki-Eerola with the Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award 2015 for their leadership in implementing precise and innovative tech niques at their organic crop farm Knehtilä, which has resulted in optimal soil structure and successful retention of nutrients.
“By always taking the environment into consideration, they have also generated strong agricultural and economic returns for the farm, thereby providing a worthy model for other farmers to learn from.
“Furthermore, the jury was impressed with the couple’s passion for spreading information on sustainable agriculture, and their exceptional engagement in many national and international agri-environmental projects.
“Markus Eerola and Minna Sakki-Eerola are already exemplary ambassadors for environmentally conscious farming – and the jury is certain that they will continue to provide knowledge and inspiration for farmers across the Baltic Sea region.”