Encouraging farmers to become ecological in their farm practice and to participate in ecotourism projects as a means of diversification to help with the transition time to organic standard.
Promoting ecotourism to farms is achieved through information dissemination involving practical information on ecological agriculture, ecological tourism to farms, the growing market for ecological products, general ecological awareness, and the necessity of cooperation among farmers to achieve a successful transition to ecological farming.
A typical ecofarm holiday involves walking in the mountains and countryside, riding horses and swimming in ponds and lakes, often with farmers' and tourists' children going off together. Tourists often participate in farm life, including taking on farm chores such as harvesting fruit, milking cows and making cheese, butter and jam. Collecting herbs, berries and mushrooms is very popular, as is baking bread.
The mission of the European Centre for Ecological and Agricultural Tourism-Poland (ECEAT-Poland) is to use ecological tourism to organic farms as a tool to help small farmers make a sometimes difficult transition from conventional agriculture to ecological agriculture. In this way the farmers benefit financially while environmentally sound practices are spread, and the natural landscape, biodiversity and local culture and traditions are protected and shared with visitors. By working in a cooperative and ecological way small Polish farmers will be able to protect their livelihoods and their traditional way of life in a coming period of difficult economic and social transformation. In 1993 the Eco-Village program was launched with a pilot effort in the southern village of Stryszow. Stryszow has 3,000 inhabitants and 500 farms, and was chosen because of the mountainous terrain and small size of the farms. Groups of ecologists from the Institute for Applied Ecology in Krakow provided technical support to the initial group of twenty farmers who were meeting monthly to explore the possibilities. It was noted that eco-tourism is a natural tool for local authorities.
Once a farm meets the Ecoland standard (an internationally recognized certification process for organic goods) for at least half of its products, it may participate in the ecotourism program. The Ecoland standard is supported by the European Centre for Eco-Agro Tourism (ECEAT) in the Netherlands. Today there are 23 European countries in the ECEAT network. Descriptions of participating farms and their surroundings and local tourist attractions are prepared and published annually in an ecological tourism brochure in the local language as well as other languages with the cooperation of the international ECEAT network. In 1996, the movement accommodated 1,200 tourists on 59 farms.
The Worldwide Fund for Nature is also cooperating with ECEAT-Poland to develop ecological tourist accommodations guidelines for visitors to the Bialawieza National Forest.