Organic farming at Country Estate Trnulja

Almost a decade ago, when Urša Kunz and Miha Pupis started farming, their pens housed ten goats. But they followed their goals and dreams. Their Country Estate Trnulja is located in Črna vas, in the heart of the Ljubljansko barje Landscape Park, and only ten minutes from Ljubljana.

In 2004, they were among the first in Slovenia to begin growing hemp, initially about a hectare. Hemp and hemp seed oil remain the main promoters of Trnulja. Over the years, they added other produce and products, and Trnulja with its green holiday apartments is soon to become an official member of the association of BIO Hotels.

The farm is strictly organic; in fact it would be difficult to make it more organic than it already is. The farm focuses particularly on the production of oilseeds and grains and processing them into organic oils, spreads and regular and wholemeal flour. The farm is home to numerous animals; horses, goats, donkeys, one mule, ducks, chicken, cats and Riki the dog, who accompanied us throughout our conversation, like the real master of the property.

Urša and Miha are not conventional farmers. They were looking for cultivable land where they could also keep horses for a long time. “If you’re only starting to farm, it’s not easy to acquire agricultural land,” explains Miha. They had to wait several years for the land over which Trnulja now extends. Because it was overgrown with thorn bushes, they first had to clear these away and re-cultivate. They also put up buildings for the animals, machinery and feed. Two years ago, they began building holiday apartments.

They acquired knowledge of organic farming through experience. Urša has an M.A. in economics, but has many years of practical experience in farming. Over the years, she also improved her practical knowledge with theory and obtained a professional education as a farmer and stock breeder. Horses are her greatest joy, and she also likes transforming home-grown produce into delicious home-made dishes. The Estate also holds cookery workshops, particularly for the preparation of hemp dishes. I tasted Urša’s biscuits made with pumpkin seeds and found them delicious. Miha has a degree in traffic technology and is an active member of the Association of Organic Farmers of Central Slovenia. He acquired his knowledge of organic farming over the years by working on a farm. Today, they are among the most noticeable organic producers in their district and recently held an open-door day under the Local Quality project.

“We started with hemp; we were pioneers in this field in Slovenia, and it is for hemp products that we are most known,” explains Miha. “We grow all our grains ourselves. We have our own combine harvester, but unfortunately, we don’t have our own mill, so others mill for us. But we do press our own oils.” They are committed to the principles of sustainable development and process only what they produce.

Principles of Trnulja

The Country Estate Trnulja is an example of best practice of how to start organic farming. The Estate functions on the principles of high-quality products and services and a comprehensive offer, but it also remains loyal to the tradition and cultural identity of the environment in which it is located. 

The vision of the Estate is clear: to follow the principles of sustainable development. In its region, the Country Estate Trnulja wishes to additionally strengthen its position as a recognised organic farm and to convince with its distinctive tourist offer, which is both classic and also innovative. In the last year, the farm has been involved in tourist activities by offering holiday apartments, with which Trnulja joined the association of BIO Hotels, which has extremely high and strict ecological standards.

When Miha and I walk around the facilities, he explains how they selected the construction materials. The facilities for both daily visitors and those who stay longer are constructed according to the principles of organic architecture, with an emphasis on the use of building and insulating materials. The insulation is from hemp grown in their own fields. They also used reeds and clay, which are abundant in the Marshes. The old house which stood on the property was used as building material for the new one. Bricks were recycled or cut and now serve as paving blocks for new surfaces; the walls feature wooden frameworks, hemp insulation and clay plaster. The timber piles that supported houses on the Ljubljana Marshes were used for decorative purposes. Tomaževa hiša (Tomaž House), the oldest house in Črna vas, which is a monument of national interest only a stone’s throw from the Estate, served as a stylistic inspiration for the construction.

The interior design and equipment also follow organic and local principles. The interior equipment is made of alder and pine. The bedding, towels and curtains are made of hemp, while the mattresses are also filled with it. The photographs of motifs from the surrounding area add an additional aesthetic touch. What peace and tranquillity one feels upon entering these premises! I believe it is a truly exceptional project.

Urša and Miha have many plans. During our pleasant chat, they revealed that they wish to have a special wellness centre at the farm incorporating the tradition and history of the Ljubljana Marshes. They think that the Marshes are not developed enough for tourism, although from the historical point of view it is one of the most important places, as the oldest wooden wheel with an axle in the world was found here. And when I ask them about their experience of organic farming, Urša replies, “Very pioneering. Because we do not have a long and generally present tradition of organic farming, it was necessary to break fresh ground in certain fields. Especially, if one chooses such a strict organic direction.”

Text: Polona Prešeren
Photo: Country Estate Trnulja