Zarechye Farm is located along a river bank in a village that has been inhabited by Irina Rudenko’s family for over 200 years. When she and her husband Igor decided to take over the family property ten years ago, however, they found it in a state of serious decline.
The village had been nearly destroyed and abandoned during World War II, and never quite recovered after that. Disappointed by what was happening, Irina and Igor decided to rebuild the house on the property and set up their own farm.
“We decided that our farm would be aimed at both agriculture and rural tourism, with a focus on volunteering opportunities for visitors to help look after animals, experience country life and taste local products,” says Igor.
Irina and Igor keep a variety of animals on the farm – especially traditional Russian breeds – including goats, sheep, rabbits, geese and ducks. Milk and meat products from the farm are sold online and at local farmer shops in St. Petersburg.
Managing the farm in a nature friendly way is very important to Irina and Igor, so they do not use any fertilizers of chemical origin. Additionally, all of their animals are freerange, which – when it comes to preventing nutrient runoff – has been particularly challenging.
“It is very good in terms of sustainable animal welfare, but we need to collect manure from the land,” says Igor.
As a solution, Irina and Igor employ a process where manure is regularly collected from areas where freerange birds and goats are kept. It is then mixed with hay and straw, and stored in a special tank. After some time, the mixture is moved to the fields where it is shallow buried in order to keep the grasslands productive.
“By using the mixture of manure, hay and straw, as well as compost, we are able to manage all of the fertilizer needs of our fields,” says Irina.
To further guard against nutrient runoff, Igor and Irina have also planted trees and shrubs along the riverbanks, and begun restoring the semi-natural grasslands on the property.
The results of Irina and Igor’s labours have been transformational for both the land and surrounding community.
“All of our work is to show that Russian village traditions can be restored and be beneficial for both society and nature,” says Irina.
“Our main achievement during recent years is that we’ve brought new life to the farm,” says Igor. “It is growing – slowly, but constantly.”
In 2018, Igor and Irina Rudenko received the national Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award in recognition of their efforts to reduce nutrient runoff on their farm.
Location: Zarechye village, Luga District of the Leningrad Region
Type of farm: Conventional livestock farm (27 ha)
Main production: Free-range goats and goat milk products, rabbits, chickens, ducks and geese
Key practices: No artificial fertilizers, restoration of river banks, restoration of semi-natural grasslands, placement of shrubs and hedges to prevent wind and rain-induced runoff
National jury motivation: “Irina and Igor Rudenko have brought astonishing new life to the ancient rural area in the upper reaches of the Luga River. They are highly motivated to reduce agricul- tural runoff from the farm, which is also being done using very traditional methods in the region that allow for a complete refusal of fertilizers of chemical origin. We also highly value their continuous attempts to restore the banks of River Kuksa in places where the farmland meets the river plain.”