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Winning farms|22 May, 2024

The 2023 Baltic Sea Farmer Award – National Winners


The Baltic Sea Farmer Award competition recognizes national winners from countries within the Baltic Sea catchment. This year four countries selected national winners, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania and Poland. Each farmer has a unique and inspirational story to tell about the methods they have tried and successfully implemented to reduce nutrient runoff into the Baltic Sea.

National juries have selected winners based on their use of WWF sustainable farming practices for soil, water, and nutrient management. The winners have been awarded a prize of 1,000 Euros for measures that range from maintaining built wetlands and planting intercrops to practising nutrient recycling with chicken manure.

The national juries have been impressed by the diverse range of measures employed at the farms to reduce nutrient runoff, as well as by the farmers’ dedication to pursuing new strategies for sustainable and future-proof agriculture.

Today, farmers from across the Baltic region will be presented with the WWF Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award. The award recognizes the exemplary use of sustainable farming practices to reduce nutrient runoff to the Baltic Sea catchment.   

“Sustainable agriculture has a critical role to play in combating the problem of eutrophication,” says Anu Suono, Manager of the Baltic Sea Farmer Award. “We need to keep working together as a region to reduce emissions so that the Baltic marine ecosystem can recover and stand a chance against other stressors like climate change.” 


Priidu Veersalu, the owner of Iisaka farm, introducing his activities. Photo: Kertu Hool


"Our family business values the harmony between production and nature, exemplified by the successful preservation of species-rich semi-natural communities. Our farm, also our residence, reflects our commitment to creating a welcoming environment amid nature. Through joint efforts, we've revitalized numerous overgrown and unused areas, a testament to the dedication of our family and team."

The 2023 Estonian Baltic Sea-friendly farmer award was clinched by Priidu Veersalu from Iisaka farm in the village of Uuri, located in Lahemaa. The family’s triumph in this competition was attributed to their comprehensive approach to both nature conservation and production. The organic farm ensures a vigilant oversight of production processes to prevent the undue removal of nutrients, thereby contributing to the preservation of the water environment.

Furthermore, the Iisaka farm actively engages in the restoration and maintenance of heritage meadows, utilizing their flock of sheep to sustainably manage the landscapes and uphold species diversity in the picturesque Lahemaa region. Beyond their dedication to sustainable agriculture, Iisaka talu stands out as a resolute advocate for rural life and serves as a valuable learning ground for young enthusiasts.

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Winners of the "WWF Baltic Sea Farmer 2023" with their award © Laura Baumann / WWF


In addition to climate and animal protection, the Hopmann family is passionate about social cohesion. That's why the company opens its farm gates every Friday to anyone interested and regularly offers events and tours for school classes or clubs: “I would like to see even more in the future Together,” says Dirk Hopmann, “so that we farmers are well integrated into society.”

Hof Sandbek near Kappeln on the Schlei is the German winner of the WWF Baltic Sea Farmer Award. Dirk and Bente Hopmann transformed their large pig barn into an organic farm with multiple branches, seamlessly integrating agriculture, animal husbandry, a new greenhouse, and an organic store in a sustainable, economic, and ecological manner.

“We’ve reinvented ourselves,” says Dirk Hopmann. This transformation on the 140-hectare farm, managed in the sixth generation, was not easy and cost the Hopmanns a lot of courage and nerves. The most significant step was reducing the pig farming operations from 7,000 conventionally raised animals to around 450 animals in open barns and free-range areas. This reduction in the number of animals, combined with the switch to organic farming, convinced the competition jury. In this way, Hof Sandbek was able to reduce the annual amount of manure by over 90 per cent, thereby significantly reducing nutrient runoff into the Baltic Sea.

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"As a Żebrowski family farmer, we're committed to sustainable practices. We integrate animal and plant production, ensuring a closed circulation of matter. Our approach includes applying natural fertilizers with trailing hoses, strategic storage of fertilizers and silage to prevent leachate, year-round grazing, and the use of catch crops—a holistic commitment to farming in harmony with the environment."

Halina and Waldemar Żebrowscy (Halina Żebrowska, Waldemar Żebrowski) from the Mazowieckie Voivodship run the Turna ecological farm.

The Żebrowski family, hailing from Mazowieckie Voivodship, secured top honors in this year’s Baltic Sea Farmer competition, showcasing their commitment to sustainable farming practices. Implementing a closed nutrient cycle, they employ eco-friendly methods such as natural fertilizers delivered through trailing hoses, strategic storage to guard against leachate, year-round grazing, and maintaining continuous plant cover. Notably, the family seamlessly integrates nature protection with dairy production, selling a majority of their products in eco-conscious glass packaging. Their farming practices not only provide a conducive environment for animals but also contribute to increased biodiversity in surrounding open areas. Beyond their farm, the Żebrowskis actively collaborate with other farmers, the Association of Rural Women, and the local community. Their exemplary efforts earned them a well-deserved EUR 1,000 prize, underscoring the successful fusion of sustainable agriculture, ecological preservation, and economic viability.

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Last modified 12/06/24

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