Farm Tender

Don’t Tell Farmers How To Farm – Ask Them Instead

By Jake from Canada

I recently attended a virtual conference, hosted by CityAge, called “Farming for the Future”. This digital event included discussions around regenerative agriculture, soil health, farming practices that reduce carbon emissions, and so on. Truth be told, it was an interesting and well-organized event, with many of the speakers and panelists taking thoughtful positions on the ideas surrounding regenerative agriculture. There were even a couple of farmers on the panels, who did a good job speaking about their experiences with trying newer “regenerative” practices. One of the panelists, a mixed cattle and grain farmer from Saskatchewan, spoke eloquently outlining the importance of livestock in sustainable agriculture, which got a rather surprising level of agreement from the panel he was on, given the times we’re in.

All the while, though, as I listened to the presenters and participated in the chat alongside, I got the same sinking feeling in my stomach that I get almost every time I’ve attended an event like this – so many of the people presenting at these have no actual experience in operating a real farm, and yet seem to think they should impose their ideas on how to farm on those of us who do. Too often, farmers are sidelined at these events, in lieu of academics, non-governmental organizations, regulators, and social media stars or celebrities. When I attended the World Food Prize in 2017, thanks to the Global Farmer Network, I could count on just a couple fingers how many farmers were asked to be presenters or even panelists. If it wasn’t for the Global Farmer Network, there wouldn’t have been farmers there at all.

At events like this, I often hear lots of questions like: how do we convince farmers to switch to “better” practices? How do we show them to reduce pesticide and fertilizer use? How do we convince them to grow more “sustainable” crops that are better for the environment? How do we switch farmers to organic or regenerative management? How do we get farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? So much dialogue is generated on how to convince farmers to switch practices with no farmers present to engage with, or even to explain why they do the things they do. More....

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