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‘The rich are not those who earn much, but those who spend little’ – 1,600ha farmer

Hear how Vanapere Farm is contributing to the EU’s transition to carbon neutrality in agriculture. 

Agriculture contributes to greenhouse gases emissions (10% of total emissions from human activities).

However, at the same time, it holds a great potential to sequester and store carbon in plants, trees and soils.

Many EU farms and projects are addressing the optimisation of carbon balance, contributing to the EU’s Green Deal objectives, aiming at climate neutrality by 2050.

Vanapere Farm

Ando Eelmaa from Korjuse – Vanapere farm – farms in the north-west of Estonia.

He has set up a long-term farming system with a minimal carbon footprint. This has brought about many other benefits for the enterprise.

Ando said: “Korjuse-Vanapere farm has been in my family more than 300 years.”

“We have approximately 1,600 ha in total; over half is forest land. Also, we have arable land, grassland, marshes and waterways. 60 ha is a Natura 2000 area.”

Their Galloway and Hereford beef cattle graze on permanent grasslands. They grow apples, pears and berry crops in our orchard.

Furthermore, they have a small plant nursery, and they collect other products from the forest and natural areas.

On-site, they produce cider and cider vinegar, jams and syrups.

Continuing, he said: “All our agricultural activities and products are organic. We have developed our brand name ‘Kloostrimetsa’.”

“We sell wood to industry and use wood waste for bioenergy.”

Since the farm business is based on the continuity of generations, the basic knowledge of sustainability, resource depletion, etc., is in the genes.

Of course, new knowledge and technologies are constantly created, and they must integrate where possible.

Vanapere Farm is a mixed enterprise with cattle, solar energy and forestry: a long-term farming system with a minimal carbon footprint
Image: Vanapere Farm
Farm diversification and waste 

Ando explains: “We have diversified our activities, and we try to keep them all as optimal as possible.”

“Also, we try to minimise waste. For example, our customers bring back the glass bottles and jars from our products, and we use them again.”

Ando’s farming is organic, and they also practice organically certified harvesting from non-cultivated areas (wild berries, medicinal plants and tree sap).

The holding includes semi-natural areas and wooded meadows that they maintain only for nature conservation.

The entire property has the Wildlife Estates label. Ando’s livestock graze all-year-round, and they are not fattened.

He feeds them the farm’s own hay and silage during the winter season.

Most of the farm’s electricity is self-produced solar energy; he sells the surplus to the grid.

Ando and his family implemented this to make the best out of the less fertile land.

Challenges

Ando has come across many challenges: “The problem is common. As many rural entrepreneurs would agree, the price paid for our products does not reflect the value of our way of farming.”

“However, challenges are interesting and force you to look for solutions. Working with nature is different every day.”

Advice for farmers

Ando concludes with some advice for other farmers:

“Reducing your footprint is not just a way to feel better; activities aimed at energy efficiency and more careful use of resources are cost-effective.”

“For example, our solar power provides us with a substantial income and was a commercially viable investment.”

“Sorting and recycling of waste also have a clear economic impact. The rich are not those who earn much, but those who spend little.”

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