Organic farms in Belarus

REALS partner Ecohome are visiting pioneers within organic farming in Belarus. Here is a presentation of the first farm, which also has been selected as an demonstration farm for permaculture techniques within the project

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1: Chukhny farm (Khvashchevskii family) Village Chukhny, Grodno region

Chukhny farm was founded in 2011, with 3 hectares of land. The farmer recently got access to additional 20 hectares of land, and Ecohome consults him in creating a permaculture based design of the area. The main produce is leaf and root vegetables as well as perennial varieties of berries. Certification by Ukrainian Organic standards has recently (in 2013) enabled organically labeled produce at the farm, which is an huge progress in Belarus, a country with only eight farms with organically certified products. Herbal infusions is one example on how traditional knowledge related to pest control (preventing and managing plant diseases and pests) is used at the farm. Permaculture principles are also applied in the design through combining plants in beneficial guilds and through the consideration of prevailing wind and sun directions etc. The farmer is practicing different ways to take care of farm residues as well as improwement in general cycling of nutrients within the local farmsystem. One main technique is worm-composts. Compost tea is used as one of the main fertilizers and the farmer is during 2014 scaling-up the practices of worm-compost and compost tea into a smaller enterprise. The practices of worm composting at Chukhny farm will as well be described in Ecohomes brochure “good practices of waste processing within agriculture”. There´s also an aim to improve the recycling of residues within the farm-system. At present, manure for worm-composts is taken from  an intensive breeding of livestock (cattle) . But another smaller farmer not far from Chukhny has started with sheep-breeding, and hopefully can the manure from there be integrated in Chukhny´s cycle in the near future, if it becomes organically approved and certified. Chukhny´s own farmer is also planning to buy sheep to increase the amount of livestock at the farm. By integrating local and organic farmcycles and production, possibilities open up for further buildup of local resilience and sustainability. There is plenty of comfrey growing on the plot. Today it’s a weed and partly – a source for herbal infusion. The farmer is aware of the potential of using the plant. But as all farms are part of a bigger system, so is also Chukny. And the farm faces an external problem: one side of the farmland borders with an conventional cornfield, owned by a Kolkhoz (collective farm). The field is situated on a hill. Run-off during spring and in rainy periods as well as erosion brings chemical pesticides and fertilizers to Chykhny, which is located below. The solution taken for this purpose has been a construction of some draining swales with percolation ponds as well as planting of perennial plants, shrubs and trees on buffer-zones. The Belarusian State Institute of Microbiology has already investigated beneficial tendencies in crops, which can work as detoxification as they have the capacity of accumulating and decomposing chemicals in polluted soil. So they both clear soil and stay good for animals feeding and composting. Written by Nadin Kuleshova, Ecohome