Businesses often ask the question “how can you help us enable, support and convince farmers to make the transition to regenerative farming?”
We see that farmers need two main things in taking the first steps towards regenerative (organic) farming:
- practical examples of the implementation of regenerative farming and a supportive community;
2. a profitable model for regenerative (organic) farming.
We have seen how our peer 2 peer sessions inspire and enable skeptical farmers to change their minds and join the regenerative farming projects we set up with businesses.
Moreover, farmers are willing to share very valuable practical insights about topics, like selection of cover crops to fertilise ‘ending cover crops’; and successes with companion cropping during the learning session, which help to take next steps in regenerative farming.
Farmer to farmer learning sessions play a fundamental role in the projects of Soil Heroes
There is a growing consensus amongst farmers, politicians, and corporates of why we need to transit to regenerative (organic) agriculture. In the last 3 years, studies such as those from Deloitte, BCG and the Sustainable Food Trust indicate that regenerative farming holds grand opportunities for enhancing the environmental footprint of agriculture, whilst;
- improving the long-term business case of a farm,
- restoring the fertility of soils, and
- enhancing the climate resiliency of agriculture (and all the essential supply chains sourcing from agriculture).
The big next question is how to make the transition from conventional and organic farm management systems to regenerative, and eventually regenerative organic systems.
At Soil Heroes, we have seen that farmers hold the practical experience and insights of how to overcome challenges in the implementation of regenerative practices and adopt a regenerative “adaptive” mindset.
However, farmers often work in isolated settings on their farms handling their soils, managing their crops, while acquiring valuable learnings that are very relevant for the whole farming community and the value chains connected to it.
At Soil Heroes, we therefore set-up and guide peer 2 peer learning sessions and assist to collect data during experiments to implement regenerative practices in the field, like companion cropping, lane farming or setting up regenerative practices for onions.
From skeptical conventional farmer to open-minded farmer ready for implementation of RegenAg
It is December in The Netherlands. The sky is grey, the winds are strong, and the fields of our showcase farm in The Netherlands are in resting stage covered by cover crops. We are awaiting ± 10 farmers of the regions Zuid-Holland and Zeeland for the last peer 2 peer session of the year in The Netherlands.
The group consists of ± 5 front-running farmers on the one hand, experimenting with large-scale agroforestry systems and advanced lane farming systems. On the other hand, 2 farmers that are skeptical about regenerative farming.
The skeptical farmers are invited by one of their value chain partners to join the Soil Heroes program but don’t see the value of being a frontrunner in regenerative farming yet, as “it costs you a lot of time, money and frustration and the rewards are unpredictable and thin”.
The farmer-to-farmer session is supervised by Stefan Muijtens, a renowned agronomist from the Southern part of The Netherlands. During the session we talk about the practical challenges and gains they experienced themselves on the field last year, and which ones they aim to tackle next year. Prior to the session, farmers were asked to hand in their practical failures and successes, which we openly discussed during the session.
At the end of the session, farmers are so engaged, they ask us to share the notes of the session, which is not very common, and, our biggest gain, the two skeptical farmers said the session changed their perspective and they wanted to become part of the project. These two farmers are now two of the most pro-active farmers of one of the Soil Heroes projects.
A practical example: ending cover crops
One of the most valuable learnings during the session in December was on ending cover crops. Lots of farmers see the benefits of cover crops as a low-investment regenerative practice, for carbon sequestration and green fertilisers. However, a lot of farmers struggle with ending cover crops without (deep) tillage.
Sefan Muijtjens shared an important lesson he gained with another group of farmers of The Netherlands and Belgium, which they call the 3-4-5 cover crop ending method. The method advises to work the land 3 times on a maximum of 4 cm and remove the cover crop on the day.
Check out our data collection project on the benefits of companion cropping alongside Toast Ale and Weston Park Farm
About Soil Heroes
At Soil Heroes, we strongly believe in the expertise and practical learnings farmers can exchange themselves. Our programs enable farmers to become part of a community of farmers to share learnings and failures and inspire one another to take a next step.
As value chain- and business partners you can play an essential role in the transition to regenerative agriculture by helping farmers to get connected to the community of regenerative farming and to financially reward farmers for implementing regenerative practices. You can become part of the solution too!
Rubie Van Crevel
Account Manager – Corporate Clients
Let’s talk about Regenerative Agriculture
You know you’ll dig it too.