Latvian couple Juris Cīrulis and Vija Cīrule are today presented with the WWF Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award at a ceremony in Warsaw, Poland. They are awarded for their holistic approach to running a conventional dairy and crop farm that optimizes the use of resources and by-products. The Award was created by WWF to recognize the importance of farmers who are taking active steps to reduce nutrient runoff to the Baltic Sea.
National competitions have been held in all nine countries around the Baltic Sea this year and Juris Cīrulis and Vija Cīrule and their farm were considered the most outstanding from amongst the national winners. As the regional winners of the competition, they received a 10,000 Euro prize, in recognition of their accomplishment.
“I have won different national awards before. However, this award was gained in a competition organized by a globally recognized organization. It is very encouraging and brings confidence in what I do, as well as recognition,” says Juris.
Juris Cīrulis and Vija Cīrule have stayed true to their core belief that farmers should take ownership of the negative effects their agricultural practices have on nature. Over 20 years, they have taken many measures to use resources to their full potential by developing a closed, and thereby environmentally friendly, production cycle. For example, manure is recycled in a biogas station that produces electricity and valuable by-products. Juris and Vija have also constructed wetlands, buffer zones and settling ponds and are keen to pass on their knowledge and experiences on sustainable agricultural practices to others.
“I think farmers are now looking for new technologies that might help them to operate in a more sustainable way,” Juris says. “The farm is always open to local farmers who want to see how modern technologies can be used not only to make farming more effective, but also more eco-friendly.”
Farmers are part of the solution
The WWF Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award is a competition intended to inspire farmers in the entire Baltic Sea region to take an active part in combating eutrophication. It was launched in 2009 by WWF in cooperation with the Baltic Farmers Forum for the Environment, and farmers’ organisations from around the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea is still one of the most threatened seas in the world. Eutrophication, or over-fertilization, has been identified as the single most important threat to its health and agricultural runoff is the main cause. The purpose of the Award is to highlight best practices in “Baltic-friendly” farming and to recognise and promote farmers who are taking innovative measures to reduce nutrient runoff from their farms.
“Farmers are often blamed for the problems we face today with the Baltic Sea,” says Ottilia Thoreson, Manager of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme. “With this award we can truly showcase and raise awareness about all the good initiatives being practiced in the region to achieve more environmentally friendly farming.”
The award is presented at a ceremony at the International Baltic Sea Conference “A Greener Agriculture for a Bluer Baltic Sea” held at the Hotel Gromada Airport in Warsaw, Poland.
The international jury’s motivation for the 2014 Regional Winner of the WWF Baltic Farmer of the Year Award:
The international jury presented Cīrulis and Vija Cīrule with the Award for purposefully developing their farm to reduce nutrient runoff to the local and regional environment. The production cycle at the farm is well-balanced and resources as well as by-products are thoughtfully used and reused, for example through a biogas station that recycles manure from the dairy cows. A growing chain of products are created and the negative impact on the environment is substantially reduced. Furthermore, the Jury was impressed with the farm’s construction of wetlands to accumulate and store nutrients. They welcome visitors including farmers, students and researchers at their farm and promote their approaches via a well-designed website. As such, they are excellent ambassadors for environmentally conscious farming. The Jury is delighted to acknowledge them with this award and hope that their positive example will provide inspiration for other farmers across the Baltic Sea region.