The farmer Mr. Rudzītis was the first private initiative taker in Latvia to start with natural grazing. Besides there love for nature and especially wild horses the family understood that having a nature area with herds of wild horses and cows is a good way to attract tourists to there estate. The Rudzītis where planning to build a guest house and needed an attraction that at the same time tells about the natural (ecological) style of there business. Inspired by the grazing project with wild konik horses at Lake Pape; in the summer of 2000 they contacted Ark to ask for the possibilities for them as a private business to work with a similar concept. For Ark this seemed a perfect chance to, together with the Rudzītis work out a way to make nature management a logical and economically attractive combination for a Business like a guesthouse! Together we decided to take the challenge, we agreed that after 5 years half of the herd would be returned to a herd fund (set up by Ark.) from this fund, animals cold be given again and again to other people for similar purposes. In the summer of 2002 a herd of 7 wild konik horses imported from the Netherlands set foot on the estate «Jaun-Ieviņas». This rather unusual step for a private enterprise attracted the attention of the media and that summer «Jaun-Ieviņas» was national news! As an effect of this tourists started to come, that summer already some 700 people visited the territory with wild horses. Mr. Rudzītis knows how to tell a passionate story about his herds, that he knows as if they where his own family, as a result of this people keep coming. Next year the number of visitors climbed to a 1000, and this while the building of the guest house was only just started. Only excursions does not bring in a lot of money, but it covered the costs for fence building. This year there farm also gets certified as a Latvian ecological farm. In 2005 they open the gates of there new guesthouse, now the visitors who’s numbers have grown to 1500 can be offered not only a nice excursion but also a stay for the night and thus more income! In 2007 they become a European certified Eco. farm and guesthouse. The number of visitors keeps growing and in the year 2007 there are already 2000. For many tourists the guesthouse seems a little to big a step to take, and the Rudzītis understand that they have to offer more and cheaper facilities that bring in money. In 2008 they build a kiosk near the entrance of the grazing area; here you can buy products from «Jaun-Ieviņas» farm as well as other local ecological products. For instance self made charcoal, honey, herb tea, juice, jams and dried fruits and of course ecological ice-cream. The number of tourists has stabilized around 2000 a year and now during crises circumstances it even looks like it that they are going to drop some. Today tourists are bringing in the biggest part of the farms income, but «Jaun-Ieviņas» has many economic legs to stand on and if is not going so well than they concentrate on one other, this year for instance they orientate more on farming than in previous years.
The grazing area develops spectacularly; in 2002 the whole grazing area was looked over by official botanists to value it botanically, than only 1 ha. was acknowledged as biologically valuable grassland. On grassland with this status one can get some extra state subsidy. In 2009 the same area was valued again now due to natural grazing 19.5 ha. where acknowledged as biologically valuable. Spectacular as this may be it is still a some what unfair count because a lot of the included half open woodlands show the same or a even more rare vegetation, but due to legislation can not be counted as grassland and therefore give no possibilities for this subsidy. Because cow’s have a totally different grazing strategy as well as a different landscape orientation, a small herd of wild cow’s was interred in to the grazing area in 2006. The herds of konik horses thrived and as there numbers increased, many horses from «Jaun-Ieviņas» where brought to other farms in the region where people are starting with similar ways of nature-landscape management and eco tourism. Needs to be said that European rural development subsidies are many times an important part of a farms income, but as the Rudzītis show, if you can find more economic legs under your farm you will probably keep standing even if the subsidies dry out.
republished from: ARK