Polish farmer Marian Rak was today presented with the WWF Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. He is awarded for his innovative measures to reduce nutrient losses and enhance biological and landscape biodiversity. The Award was created by WWF and Swedbank to recognize the important work done by farmers who take active steps in the fight against eutrophication.
National competitions have been held in eight countries around the Baltic Sea this year and Marian Rak and his farm was considered the most outstanding among the eight national winners. As the regional winners of the competition, Marian Rak received a 10,000 Euro prize provided by Swedbank, the competition’s sponsor, in recognition of his accomplishment.
"I have always been interested in nature conservation. When I realized that my farming was harmful to the environment I decided to work for the benefit of nature," says Marian Rak. "Winning this award is very important to me and will make me go one step further. Finally I feel understood and that the measures I have taken are appreciated."
Marian Rak has developed his farm since 1975 with new and environmentally friendly methods and practices. He plants trees among his fields and constructs ponds and wetlands, both to reduce nutrient run-off and to restore natural habitats to offer sufficient space for wildlife.
Marian Rak's farm is a conventional crop production farm. His main crops are wheat, barley, corn, rapeseed and potatoes, but he also grows an orchard and rears cattle. The measures that are taken on the farm can easily be replicated by other farmers around the Baltic Sea.
"I hope this award will allow me to convince local farmers that my actions are taken for a reason," he says. "For years I have tried to make them do the same. Many of them are reluctant but I guess this award will make them look at me from a different perspective."
The WWF Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award is an annual 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, together with Swedbank, and in cooperation with the Baltic Farmers Forum for the Environment, and farmers’ organisations from around the Baltic Sea.
The purpose of the Award is to highlight best practices in “Baltic-friendly” farming and to recognise and promote farmers who are leading in innovative measures to reduce runoff from their farms.“We want to engage more in our local environment and realized that the best thing we could do for the Baltic Sea was to support a competition where examples of good farming practices are promoted,” says Magnus Hammar, responsible for Forestry and Agriculture at Swedbank.
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.
"Farmers have for a long time been seen as the problem," says Pauli Merriman, Director of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme. "We see them as an important part of the solution and with this award we want to recognize their contribution."
The award was presented at a ceremony at the International Baltic Sea Conference “A Greener Agriculture for a Bluer Baltic Sea” held at Sånga-Säby Conference centre in Stockholm, Sweden.
The international jury’s motivation for the 2011 Regional Winner of the WWF Baltic Farmer of the Year Award: The international jury presented Marian Rak with the Baltic Sea Famer of the Year award for his strong commitment to environmental protection and for demonstrating how a successful progressive conventional farm can simultaneously reduce nutrient losses while enhancing biological and landscape diversity. Through the implementation of a diverse number of agri-environmental measures, it is the jury’s belief that Mr. Rak and his family have gone the extra mile to save the Baltic Sea, and that these measures could easily be replicated and duplicated by other farmers in the Baltic Sea region. Mr. Rak has also proved to be an effective ambassador and advocate for sustainable agricultural practices in Poland and, with the acknowledgement of this award, we hope his influence and example may now extend further across the Baltic Sea region