Ando Eelmaa

Private Land Conservation Ambassador

Ando Eelmaa, manages his family’s farm in Estonia for now 30 years and has a forestry education. He is the chairman of the board of the Estonian Private Forest Union and of The Nature Fund as well.

Ando Eelmaa, the owner of Korjuse-Vanapere farm in his apple orchard. Photo credit: Julia-Maria Linna

The Nature Fund (TNF) is an initiative of landowners, which promotes private nature conservation activities in Estonia. It is cooperation-oriented and focuses on the voluntary dimension of private land conservation. The TNF is a dream come true for Ando after long years of work and hope.

 

Ando was born on the Korjuse-Vanapere farm and at least ten generations of his ancestors have cultivated the same land before him.

“People who have been around the land for a long time understand that not only do you own the land, but the land owns you."

Since the 90’s Ando worked really hard to give a fresh start to the family business. After the restitution, the installations were in a poor state. Everything needed to be redone, restored, and taken care of.

Managing the family farm is more than a job. It is the mission of his life. He has been dedicated to that purpose for 30 years and plans to continue to do so as long as he can.

Marie Orban, ENPLC: “Thank you, Ando, for being part of the ENPLC community. Could you share with us how you approach conservation measures in your land?”

The estate covers 1600 ha, two-thirds of which is forest land and 300 ha of agricultural land. We produce cider and jam. Our mission is to handle all our activities in an environmental and organic way.

The Korjuse-Vanapere farm has apple orchards, an arolonia, sea-buckthorn and blackcurrant orchard plus a vegetable garden. We produce apples for organic cider and extensive organic beef cattle pastured on permanent and semi-natural grasslands.

Forest

Everything related to forestry is very close to Ando’s heart. He is convinced that wood is the material of the future – both in construction and as a substitute for petroleum products.

Ando Eelmaa hugging one of his trees. Photo credit: @kloostrimetsa

"Three old and dignified plow trees in the Korjuse-Vanapere farm yard now get the attention they deserve. We are native tree keepers and have joined the call of the The Nature Fund."

Forestry activities consist mainly of timber production for wood processing. Felling residues and low-quality wood is harvested as biomass for energy.

They have transformed a natural forest worthless for wood production into a wooded meadow, and they maintain several habitats of protected species.

Protected areas

There is around 70 ha of Natura 2000 areas within the estate. Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. It offers a haven to Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats.

The Estate is awarded with Wildlife Estates Label from 2013 onwards. WE is an association of NGOs and European administrative bodies in the fields of game and the sustainable management of natural resources, coordinated by the European Landowners’ Organization (ELO).

Even in the backyard, we mow as little as possible Photo credit: @kloostrimetsa

In our activities, we follow the general principle that human intervention in nature should be minimal. This means limiting mowing to what is absolutely necessary and preserving microhabitats.

Organic beef farming

Ando Eelmaa’s farm raised about a hundred beef cattle, Hereford and Galloway breeds are still taken care of by an external tenant.  Photo credit: Julia-Maria Linna

Ando’s farm raised about a hundred beef cattle, Hereford and Galloway breeds. They were kept outdoors all year round, grazed freely from pastures in warm weather, and get hay, silage and minerals in winter. 

Ando wanted to end that activity and focus on the cider production. But the landscape management was an important aspect for him.

The beef cattle thus remained, and is now managed by a tenant, in the same spirit as Ando did.

 

"It is better to proceed step by step when planning your activities. Then you have time to observe nature’s reaction. When we see nature flourishing and expanding, we are moving in the right direction."

Cider

Our focus is now on our cider production. We have established apple orchards; we grow apples and created our own cider house in an old barn totally renovated.
The apple garden of Kloostrimetsa. Photo credit: @ kloostrimetsa

Ando made the first cider-making experiments ten years ago. Now the apple and pear trees spread over seven hectares. More than 70 varieties have been tested, among them both old Estonian varieties and special varieties bred for cider production.

One thing was certain from the beginning – the raw materials must be home-grown and organic. Our uniqueness is our varieties and the land on which the trees grow.

The production of Kloostrimets cider house is mild and the volume is a few thousand bottles per year. In addition, cider vinegar and cider jelly are made – this is solid cider from which the alcohol has been boiled off and which tastes good, for example, on toast or with cheese. Perfect for pairing with cider.

Cider house. Photo credit: @ kloostrimetsa

Birch sap & maple sap

Since 1999 we have been harvesting and selling birch sap. And recently we started selling maple sap. During spring, there is a pop-up self-service cart at the farm gate for buying fresh maple and birch sap.

Pop-up shop at the farm gate. Photo credit: @ kloostrimetsa

The landowner is the best environmentalist if he is given the opportunity and incentive to engage in nature conservation on his land.

Estonian Private Forest Union

The Estonian Private Forest Union (EPFU) was established as an organization by the most active forest owners in 1992. It is an umbrella organization for local forest owner associations and altogether 20 local associations are members, representing about 1/3 of Estonian private forest land. EPFU represents the interest of private forest owners, participates actively in forest policy and in the legislative process and guarantees that private forest owners need and rights are taken into account.

LIFE ENPLC Team

Content Creator

The news items collected on this blog have been written by project partners of the LIFE ENPLC project.