Purola Farm’s journey to becoming a Sustainable Travel Finland certified travel provide

Sustainable values have always been part of the roots of Purola and it is both ecologically and culturally a fundamentally sustainable travel provider. The Wagner family’s dream of their own farm came true, and the farm has been officially certified organic for the last five years.  

A narrow dirt road opened up to reveal a farmhouse. The walls of the wooden barn were a pale shade of red: the hot summers and harsh winters had worn away on the paint which no one had brushed up for a while. The overflowing nature surrounding the farm and its unkempt fields stretched for hundreds of metres along the shore of Lake Katajajärvi. The woods, too, had no longer been tended to for years. The main building, at dead centre of the farm plot, was less than impressive owing to its tiny size. Abandoned for eighteen months, the farm was in poor condition – and yet so perfect.  

This was the state of the farm, close to Pajupuro village, as it had been left by its bachelor owner in 2009. Now, more than ten years later, the re-baptized Purola Farm is famed for its Finnish countryside ambience, its satisfied visitors, its high-quality organic food, its affable Icelandic horses – and the second ever Sustainable Travel Finland certification awarded in Central Finland. 

Brought to Central Finland by the dream of a farm of their own

The Wagner family, Pipsa, Fränz, Lumi, and Robi, were living in Luxembourg before the turn of the 2010s. Fränz worked in a residential institution for boys, and Pipsa was a stay-at-home mum, teaching both oil painting and Saturday school on the side. Under the peach trees, however, they dreamed of something more. Deciding to act on their dreams, the couple begun the search for a farm to serve as a bed and breakfast as well as a horse ranch. There was no dispute about the country: Finland was an ideal location both for the horse-loving Pipsa and the nature enthusiast Fränz. The original plan was to find a cabin in Lapland, but coincidence – an online sale posting – brought them to Central Finland instead. The idea of the business and the shape it would take was given its final form in the courtyard of Purola farm; it was there all the pieces suddenly fit together.  

After a long period of construction, logging, and clearing, a lovely inn and guest ranch was completed on the lakeshore at the end of the summer of 2010. The buildings have since grown and seen refurbishment. Guest rooms, a sauna section and an expanded dining and conference space were completed a few years later. The family business is focused on delivering a welcoming accommodation experience, which, as befits a B&B, includes an authentic rustic breakfast. Guests also have the opportunity to warm up in a wood-fired or a lakeshore sauna, or get a more complete holiday experience through a half or full board package. Apart from the inn itself, the location is home to conferences and workplace recreation days, equestrian camps and riding lessons, peat-based spa treatments, as well as yoga sessions. All of the services available at the farm aim at promoting the wellbeing of the visitor.  

Apart from tourist comfort, the entrepreneurs also strive to provide for the preservation of the surrounding nature. One of the criteria for the selection of the farm was the ability to tend to heating with firewood from its own woods, and to feed the horses with hay from its own fields. But these were just the first steps on the path to ecological responsibility Purola is on now.  

– We did write it up in our very first five-year business plan that we plan to become an organic farm and to produce some of our electricity with solar panels, says Pipsa. The proximity to nature and the authentic rural atmosphere the farm offers ultimately both made the owners happy and filled their guest book. 

We did write it up in our very first five-year business plan that we plan to become an organic farm and to produce some of our electricity with solar panels. 

Pipsa Wagner

Responsibility in every choice

Pipsa has been enthusiastic about reducing consumption and recycling what she does consume ever since her youth in Southern Finland. She carried those sustainable values with her to Luxembourg, where the family was fed on herbs, potatoes, berries, and fruit grown in the garden of their century-old farm house. Both the family’s daily life and the purchases of their business have always emphasized making sustainable choices.  

– Even when I was small, my grandma always said it’s no use for a poor person to buy cheap, Pipsa says. – You need quality wares that last.  

These robust values are visible in every choice made in Purola. From everyday actions, such as favouring nearby services, recycling waste, and avoiding disposable products, sustainable values work their ways up to more major choices, such as the acquisition of a water-air-heat pump, investing in ecologically certified insulation solutions, and the installation of solar panels. As the owners wished, the farm is heated with their own wood fired in a Saarijärvi-made central heating boiler, and the fields grow organic hay for the horses to eat.  

– From the very beginning it was obvious to us we need to focus on sustainability. We knew we would not have any disposable things, any more than in our home. The coronavirus pandemic has made it necessary to be a little bit flexible for safety reasons, however; normally, we’d use washable hand towels instead of paper. Even now, however, we pack our own tableware for meals during excursions, and wash it again at home, says Pipsa.  

Purola Farm has been certified as an organic producer for five years, which means they have adhered to organic farming regulations since almost the beginning. The local forests provide organic blueberries, lingonberries, and chanterelles. Starting next year, the products of the garden will be certified organic as well. Responsibility is a focus also beyond just environmental matters: the farm is home to socioeducational activities, where the underprivileged and those under the threat of social or economic marginalization can work with horses to learn social interaction skills and to recognize and cope with emotions. These activities aim to create a social experience that acts as a source of courage and joy in the everyday lives of the participants. The activities are open to individuals, groups, and as a group weekend activity carried out in cooperation with Save the Children Finland.  

The Wagner family business is an exceptionally responsible performer. Some of the accolades it has earned for this in the last year include membership in the Finnish chapter of ECEAT (the European Centre for Ecological and Agricultural Tourism) as well as certification with the Sustainable Travel Finland label after fulfilling the criteria expected of an ecologically and culturally sustainable tourism provider. The responsibility path set out by Sustainable Travel Finland was easy to traverse exceptionally quickly, given the existing deep commitment to sustainable values inherent to the roots of Purola Farm.  

– To us, it is very important to respect people, nature, and all animals. That has been evident in everything we do from the very beginning. 

To us, it is very important to respect people, nature, and all animals.

Pipsa Wagner

Purola Farm is a family business in Saarijärvi offering cozy accommodations and diverse equestrian activities. It is the second tourism business in Central Finland to be certified with the Sustainable Travel Finland label. The entrepreneur Pipsa Wagner was interviewed for this story. 

Written by: Iina Niemelä (Tourism Marketing Intern, Visit Jyväskylä Region). This story was originally published in summer 2020.