Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food

246 - Erwin Westers - Supermarkets didn’t care about his quality so he focussed on selling seeds to other regenerative farmers

September 12, 2023 Koen van Seijen Episode 246
Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food
246 - Erwin Westers - Supermarkets didn’t care about his quality so he focussed on selling seeds to other regenerative farmers
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A conversation with Erwin Westers, regenerative farmer, about soil biology, the German regenerative movement, the seed business, healthy seeds, healthy soils, healthy people, epigenetics, taste, flavour and why there is so much to learn in the German-speaking world on regeneration.

It is all about soil biology. Erwin found it out after farming low till and with cover crops for over 5 years, not without results, but not with the impact he hoped it would have. Until it clicked: with help of the German regenerative movement they started to focus on soil biology because if that isn’t there the cover crops are not digested on time to provide the fertilisation for your cash crop. It almost sounds like magic, but you can really reduce your inputs (organic manure, chemical NPKs etc. to almost zero) and still harvest an interesting cash crop year after year. 

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Speaker 1:

It's all about soil biology, discovered our guest of today after farming low-till and with cover crops for over five years, not without results, but not the impact he had hoped he would have, until it clicked. With the help of the German regenerative movement, they started to focus on soil biology Because if it's not there, the cover crops are not digested on time to provide the fertilization for your cash crop. It almost sounds like magic, but you can really reduce your inputs organic, manure, chemical MPKs etc. To almost zero and still, albeit unhealthy soils harvest an interesting cash crop year after year. And he argues that as long as big distribution, supermarkets etc. Are not willing to pay anything extra for quality and taste Coming from soil-building farms and he has the experience to back this up it makes sense to focus on the seed business because there is a growing demand for organic, biodynamic seeds. Most seeds in the organic and biodynamic world come from chemical agriculture and they are not bred for healthy soils which could explain some of the yield differences, but that's for another time, in another podcast and they're not open, pollinated etc. And these seed companies these are not the big four are willing to pay for quality and taste for the end product. Learn more about healthy seeds, healthy soils, healthy people, epigenetics, taste, flavor and why there is so much to learn in the German-speaking world on regeneration. What are the connections between healthy farming practices, healthy soil, healthy produce, healthy gut and healthy people? Welcome to a special series where we go deep into the relationship between regenerative agriculture practices that build soil, health and the nutritional quality of the food we end up eating. We unpack the current state of science, the role of investments, businesses, nonprofits, entrepreneurs and more. We're very happy with the support of the Grandham Foundation for the protection of the environment for this series. The Grandham Foundation is a private foundation with a mission to protect and conserve the natural environment. Find out more on grandhamfoundationorg or in the links below. Welcome to another episode today with a farmer from the absolute northern edge of the Netherlands. Welcome, erin.

Speaker 2:

Hey, thanks, koen, glad to be here.

Speaker 1:

And this episode has been not super long in the making, but I've been looking forward to this for quite a while. We met on the farm of a mutual friend I'm going to say last September, but maybe even before that and had some fascinating conversations, of course, about soil rotations and all of that, but also about where your inspiration comes from, especially from the German-speaking world, and how you're able to manage to focus on quality and to focus on nutrient density, but not directly through selling food, and so I really wanted to double click on that and go deeper into that. So, first of all, let's paint a bit of the picture of the context, of your context. Where do you farm? Because the northern edge of the Netherlands doesn't mean a lot to most people, I think, that are listening here. So just paint a bit of a picture. If you look out of your window, what do you see and what do you? What should people imagine when they think about your farm? And, of course, this is audio, so let's make it nicely visual for people that are listening to this somewhere on a run or in a car or painting or something like that.

Speaker 2:

So when I look out this window, I am in a house that is above one and a half meter above the ground, because this was built in 1870. And back then all the wheat that they grew was a lot taller than the modern dwarf wheat, so that, farmers, they were the best of the world and the most important of the world At least that's what they self thought and they wanted to look over their own crops. So that's why they had to build their house really high.

Speaker 1:

I thought it was for, like, flood prevention or something. No, it's really best to.

Speaker 2:

I think that they had a little bit to do with it, but back then there were already these these dykes around, and it's not that it was unprotected from the sea or anything, so it was literally to be able to look over your crop to the long view, because this is a very flat piece of land that you can see in here, so you can look very far if you're high enough. These are really enlightened and important farmers. They were in all the city councils and in the water board and, yeah, they really had something to say and they felt important and had a high seat in their house and in the community. So when we look at the other sides of the farm, there's about one and a half kilometers and then there's the real sea turning dyke and behind that there is the salt marsh, which is also on our property, and that's the sea turning dyke. That is the real barrier between land and sea, so between salt and sweet, as we call it here in Holland. And that is really the edge of Holland, because there is no land, agricultural land, more north, except for the islands. So, yeah, we really have a sea climate here and lots of influence from the sea.

Speaker 1:

And then just to pay the picture of how many hectares and what kind of crops do you grow, just to have an understanding. Of course we're going to dive deeper into that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we have around 120 hectares, of which 35 is on the outside of the dyke, so it's called the salt marsh, and so 85 is agricultural land that we farm Since 2000,. We farm organic and the last four years biodynamic, and the crops we grow are mostly for seed. So we have seed potatoes, we have radishes, we have grass, nasturtium, kale. What else is there? There are a lot of seed crops which change every year. It's just what the demands are and what the companies want. We regrow that for them and as our consumption crops for people to eat. We have green peas and carrots.

Speaker 1:

And do you remember? Maybe it's been in you and the farm of your parents and family forever, but the focus on soil, I mean it's always been. As every farmer, you focus on soil, but slightly differently, let's say, maybe compared to some other farms. Do you remember when that came into, came almost be the center focus of your work? Was it one moment? Was it a journey? How did that happen and why did you decide to go organic and beyond that, of course, to biodynamic, which is quite a few steps, I mean, compared to your neighbors, I can imagine.

Speaker 2:

I'm in the center of my 30s, so when the conversion to organic happened, I was 16, and my father did that and I just said I don't want to weed how weeds all summer, so I don't like this. And then a couple years later I went to grad school and I finished that and then I thought, yeah, I don't know what I want to do in life. And so I worked on the farm for a year that was in 2006. And I really liked that that year and, yeah, decided this might be something for me. But since I did not have an agricultural education, I did business school and later psychology. I always had a kind of different, different view, just like my father had, because back in 2000, it was really not normal in this northern part of Holland, where the farmers are really conventional, to go organic and the reactions were well, we'll be watching you or your fail, and this is your last goodbye.

Speaker 1:

This is your last goodbye.

Speaker 2:

So and now, 20 years later, they say, oh, it's not all bad, but that's the highest you can get for a compliment here. So and then from 2000,.

Speaker 1:

watching you weeding the whole season with your children, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So from 2006, we started also doing things different. We left the plow in the shed and we tried minimum tillage and working a lot with green manures, and what we found was, when we're not tilling the soil so much and working with green manures, that we needed less of animal manure. And since we don't have our own animals, we thought we could make a more efficient way of fertilizing our crops with homegrown green manures and we started moving these green manures from one field to the other and later on we thought this also can be more efficient and try to green manures.

Speaker 1:

Is that the cover crop?

Speaker 2:

The cover crop, yeah, green manure cover crop is the same thing, and later on we thought maybe it's possible on the same field to grow these green fertilizers together with the cash crop in season or off season, after it's harvested. And if we can do that really, really well and we have good mixtures and good techniques for termination and for composting on the soil, so to say, then maybe we don't need to transport this from one field to the next. So first we wanted to eliminate the transport of manure to our farm and then we wanted to eliminate the transport in our farm.

Speaker 1:

Between the fields yeah, exactly, and a lot of water.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, because we saw that from the old knowledge of organic farming this is how much manure you need for so much nitrogen, et cetera, et cetera that those rules and those models are also computer models. They did not fit if you did not till the soil and if you had the first cover crop. So we found that you can have these nutrients produced on the field in such a high rate that it would not be necessary to import nutrients from outside the farm. And this was a very, yeah, hopeful vision of how the future of farming could be. If we could just only buy seeds and diesel for the tractors and that's it, and we can have crops that have all the nutrients they have from their own farm and fields, then that would be a very good, sustainable system to develop. But the problem is there is not enough knowledge about this and we had a kind of technical view like this much nutrients is in the cover crops and we measured that and we measured how much winter killing cost in nutrients. So we measured before winter, when the cover crop was green, and after winter, when it had been frozen, how much is left, and so we made calculations. But that's a very technical and linear approach and also we had a very technical approach with the machines. This is how we kill it, so nothing grows again and we can sow our cash crop. But that has not so much to do with what is the best for soil and what is the best for soil biology.

Speaker 1:

The R view of we have to kill the cover crop, then we grow something else.

Speaker 2:

Yeah that's very human to do a very competition. My father formerly like say okay, I have this cover crop, now I must kill it in the best way possible so I can sow my cash crop. But actually it is much more important to see your soil as a microbial living organism, exactly Like you and when that started, like, how does that change? Yeah, well, we you're thinking that and you're doing mostly we were about five years on the way with almost no manure and and other inputs, and then that went well. In 50% of the times we had 100% of the yield, and in the other 50% of the times we had maybe 30% of the yield, and and then we wanted to the average didn't look so good, but if you.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, the average did not look so good.

Speaker 2:

But we had enough positive experience that we said, yeah, this is possible, but we simply there is no knowledge it was not able to come from, from from books, from from universities in Holland, because it sounds like magic, like you only import or only bring on to the farm.

Speaker 1:

Of course you're in a very fertile area and that's. It is not a sandy soil somewhere else. But still you you're not bringing in a lot of fertilization, or actually no, you bring in seeds. Of course you have to diesel, you work to soil, etc, etc. And then in a good chunk of the the plots, you can actually harvest a really nice amount and even similar, the same yields as before. But then in the other plots it didn't happen. So then the question is, why was that happening? But at least it gives us a massive hope. Like you said, this is a very hopeful part, because you are able to grow enough nutrients on the soil, in the soil and harvest a crop, and do that year over year without bringing in enormous amounts of manure, of course, organic manure, etc. But still you bring enormous amount of manure, which means you bring nutrients from Brazil, from somewhere else, because these cows ate something organic, but still exactly, and we did not have a vegan background in this.

Speaker 2:

This and we I don't have a vegan lifestyle, but you could call this a veganistic farming system and we also knew that in England there were certifiers who had, or one certifier right, a vegan certification. Vegan organic network.

Speaker 1:

So maybe they knew more.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we had contact with them, and also in Germany you had these phelos and betriebe and they were out of necessity that they did not have cattle or other animals nearby, so they had to work with plant-based fertilizers and there we got some knowledge, but still we did not have a system that was financially okay and we wanted to buy, we wanted to build a new barn, and so we had to go to a bank and we had to have a more sustainable financial system, also because sustainability has also, like, half of the time, 30%, 30%, the other half hundred, it's sustainability is not only ecological, but also financially, Financial.

Speaker 1:

Yeah and study business.

Speaker 2:

So, and around that time, my father did a lot of research in the internet and spend days and days. I did not have the time, but he found people all over the world and also in Germany. This group of people with two advisors who's called Deep Marnese and Friedrich Wenz, who were we were for the first time on this course. They gave in 2010. And they were farmers who also did not work with manure and worked a lot with cover crops and minimum tillage, and they gave courses on this topic, and so we thought we should go there. And we went there more than 10 times on course and they also evolved because they also found a system of only looking at what machine and what cover crop and how to kill was actually at that end. There was more to it and then, around 2014, they shifted the focus, or they expanded their focus, also on the microbiology, of course.

Speaker 1:

So you were there basically when that happened, yeah, and. But it's interesting that you didn't let like you found something in 2010. You went a number of times At that point. Maybe you also felt, oh, this is limited, but you didn't say, you didn't turn around and went looking for something else.

Speaker 2:

But somehow you were there in the transition with that Because they also evolved and they also had had had had insights and and and, yeah, methods that that we also were new to us, but but they also were in a dead end, as were we, and together we found that this before. We just looked at soil biology as, yeah, that's important and they will converse these green manures into nutrients for the crop, but and a much better view at that there wasn't. And around 2014, they shifted also to let's. Let's have a good look at that. And how can we shift these processes? In spring, when we want to terminate this cover crop for our cash crop, it's often cold and wet or dry or whatever. The circumstances are mostly not ideal, and we want to have this conversion of this cover crop to make fertilization for the cash crop. And how do we, how do we give this, this process, a boost that goes in the good direction? And one of these implements that that that came about was the use of herbal firmants. It is like this kind of EM, so this, this souri lactose dominated product, lactic acid dominated products, and we make that ourselves with molasses and herbs in the starter ferment and by spraying that on the cover crops while incorporating, we we can see that if it then stays cold and wet, these processes don't turn into a rotting stage, because that is really dangerous. If you have a rotting stage of this cream manure and you want to sow your, your cash crop, that is not compatible and will give a lot of loss of your of your cash crop.

Speaker 1:

So basically, you're cutting the cover crop, you're incorporating it into the soil, yeah, and then you're spraying it with this sort of starter mix, basically. Yeah, and to get the to get it to kickstart the process of to make sure it doesn't start rotting, yeah, and also the kickstart, the process of basically turning it into the nutrients and the fertilization you want and need. And this is sort of a mini, a mini kickstart or a mini place to to start that process faster. Because in spring often you have, yeah, very challenging whether it could be dry, it could be super warm, it could be very cold, it could be rainy, it could even be snow in some cases. So it's not ideal you don't have a stable environment for these cover crops to slowly digest into the soil.

Speaker 2:

Exactly. It's like you have this population of 100 microbes in your soil and like, 10 percent are good and 10 percent are bad and the other 80 percent are opportunists and you want those opportunists to help the good ones Right, and this is the corum sensing and that's what you do with these herbal firmants. So next to that is very important that this cover crop, when you incorporate it, it has to be with a special technique, that it is left loosely on the soil so it's not pressed, because otherwise you also start rotting, and that that can take place with a lot of oxygen, because that process is unnatural. Like in nature, a green plant does hardly ever get incorporated, maybe when a deer stands on it. A green leaf gets incorporated, but mostly it's dead leaves and that material that lie in the soil and decompose. But that's too slow for us. We want in two, three weeks to make from a green crop, because that's much better in winter to have a green crop that does not frost kill, but that's much harder to get away in spring and that's unnatural. But we have this technique that is very shallow and it mixes the soil with the green manure and you get these clay particles to be mixed with these sugar that are still active in this green plant and these amino acids, and this creates this clay humus bond in this top layer where there's a lot of oxygen and a lot of CO2 can exchange with the air. And since we started incorporating in that, way.

Speaker 1:

How was the first time? Like what was your experience, when you I mean probably high hopes, but still like what happened.

Speaker 2:

We incorporate like we till for three centimeters and we have this mixture of 50 percent green manure and 50 percent soil. It's very, very fine. You really mix it and cut it in pieces and then when you come two, three weeks later, the soil is loose until about 15, until 20 centimeters, and that is really remarkable because you only till three centimeters. It is like we put our first implement through that layer and it was like going with a knife through butter, like what happened here. And then we had this part of the field where we did not do that technique and then there was really hard and clumsy. So it was really amazing Like in such a short time you can change your soil to a great crumb structure. If you really pay attention to how does this conversion and decomposition and how do you optimize this? How do you give this microbiology the right boost and put it in the right direction that it can work for you and then it can till your soil without you having to put all the diesel and all the iron in the ground.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's. 3 to 15 is like 12 centimeters of quote-unquote free-term.

Speaker 2:

It's amazing. It's amazing and this technique is now implemented, I think, by around 1500 farmers have taken this course in the last 10 years, and it's around 60,000 hectares here in the German speaking and Dutch speaking part of Europe that farmers are familiar with in implementing this technique, and there are a lot of communities being formed where we fine-tune this technique. Like it's very wet, shoot a go, and what kind of machinery do you have? How do you make your herbal ferments? So that's all fine-tuning, you know. So, next to these herbal ferments and these green manures, which is a very important step, we also started working a lot more with undersowing of cover crops. So we have our cash crop that can be a radish for seed, and we saw that. At the same time we saw the radish, we saw also grasses, clovers and herbs, and that mixture has to be thought out really good so that the seeds of the undersowing yeah, they stay a little under, but they also should not be unable to be cleaned out with the radish seeds, for example. But that's good to plan, that's not that hard, and that way we have growing. Underneath the cash crop that will be ripening in through September or August, we have this vegetative crop that is still photosynthesizing and in the vegetative stage, it will give a lot more of these root exudates to the soil biology than in the generative states when it's producing seed, because then it's taking from the soil, and so it's like you don't turn off your solar panel in the middle of summer. You know this example. If you have solar panels, then you have these on your smartphone, this app, and you see, of course, over the whole year, the most of the solar energy is in the middle of June, july, and it is so dumb for your fields to turn off your solar panel in that period.

Speaker 1:

When you say, turn off your solar panel, how does that translate to a plant? Why are, because you have something in the fields, also your neighbors, but basically they're not photosynthesis anymore. Or why do you say, do you have?

Speaker 2:

it. Yeah, you see, all these one year crops, these annuals or these bi-annuals, like winter wheat or summer wheat, or all these grains or mustard seeds that grow in spring vegetative, and then they switch, like they turn on flowers and they produce seeds. From that stage that they switch to producing seeds, they don't put as much root exudates to the soil biology anymore, because first they invest in this cooperation and later they take from that. Which means basically that, as they are not pumping the root exudates into the soil anymore, if they're the only plant on that field, they're not feeding the soil and, of course, you can imagine, in the last three or four weeks of that plant's life it is just drying down or dying down and of course then the leaves, the photosynthesis able leaves of that wheat, are drying down. So then there is no photosynthesis anymore. And then it's very important to have this understory, especially of grasses and clovers, that is vegetative, so that is still in the stage of delivering a lot of root exudates to the soil and if we let that understory stand after harvest and all winter, then we have almost one year of grass, clover and herbs growing there while we produce our cash crop. And that gives a lot of opportunity for soil biology to go undisturbed and form these lots of fungal networks. Of course we help that a little by inoculating with Johnson's Sue extract and we use a lot of compostes, mainly for boosting photosynthesis. And all these methods also deliver a very good crumb structure and we did not see this crumb structure, especially at our heavy soil in the first five to ten years that we did minimum tillage in a lot of cover crops and since we started working with all these newly called regenerative methods we saw an enormous improvement in soil structure and also we started seeing on our soil tests the improvement in organic matter In the first ten years. Without plowing and a lot of cover crops, we only went from 1.8 to 2. And we thought, yeah, we are doing so much effort, this is not enough. And we also saw that at our soil structure that all this effort and it did not deliver the results we want. Yeah, it went too slowly. And now in the last five to ten years we had this rapid improvement in soil structure and we went from 2 to 3.7 on organic matter. So that has really surprised us. And could you say?

Speaker 1:

that the key is like biology and just as a job to extract is a specific way of making compost. Google it very interesting, just as a side note. But so minerals and soil biology is that what you just said?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and just the pieces missing. Yeah, exactly, but also the focus on don't be dogmatic and say I don't plow and I use cover crops and that's it, or I don't use manure and that's then by definition a good thing. No, that's not. You should just try to understand the system. Don't be dogmatic. Of course, as a bio-dynamic farmer, we don't use chemical inputs. We are dogmatic about that. But all the other things, never say never and be open for everything and try to understand what's best for soil biology. Try to be a microbial manager. Just like you're making cheese or wine or beer, you have to manage these microbes and not think I have this machine and that kills all the green manure, so that's good, so I can. So no, think what is best for the soil to convert this green manure into a fertilization for the cash crop and how can I steer this process in the right direction, and maybe what kind of machine can fit my needs. So don't think out of technique, but think out of the microbial manager that you are and in terms of what you're growing and the market.

Speaker 1:

You mentioned mostly seeds. Has that been a, of course, a conscious decision, but a decision you made, or that the context, let's say in the face you're in as a farm in this will always be probably in transition, that seeds make most sense, or how did you end up growing seeds more than, let's say, crops directly for consumers? Of course, the seeds end up being corrupt for consumers, but just at on another farm.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we, I always look for opportunities. So if there's a buyer who says, oh, I have a demand for this, then I always call and always have a talk and then see if something fits. So I always have my, my ears and my antenna out. So to say so, in 2016, there was this company called Bingenheimer Zadgut, this German biodynamic seed company vegetable and flower seeds and who said, oh, maybe we're looking to expand. And I directly said, oh, please, I'll come to you, because it's always good to go there and to take that effort and to see each other and not be just a telephone voice. And from that time on we started with growing seeds and before that I I found it a little bit problematic that all the good things that we thought we did with soil and with our crops were not so easy to be evaluated by the markets. So when we had a lot of carrots we've grown carrots for more than 20 years and we did a lot of trials, first with varieties and later on also with with the regenerative measures, and we just we measured also and plant sap and in other tests and also in in taste tests that we did with our family that we just we had better tasting carrots than were in the supermarket, then organic and then conventional. Then we just we could buy anywhere. We had better tasting carrots. So I went to my main buyer and I said, well, I have these better tasting carrots and can you, can you please try something with that? And so he tried that and he said, yeah, but don't do that. They're a little bit pointy and some of them break easier. So just take this standard variety and do it in a standard way. That's what our machines are used to. And our buyers I said okay, no, okay. So we went, we went with that and then three, four years later, of course you have to hear it.

Speaker 1:

You can only push so far If your main buyer says I want a less pointy carrots of a standard variety with less and does less flavor than yeah, you have to follow yeah and in some cases.

Speaker 2:

I said, well, I can produce only these, these good tasting carrots. And yeah, but he said what? What do I do with the rest? Call them class beers or something? And you cannot produce all the carrots I need for the whole year. No, that's true, and I cannot produce all year. So that that was a little bit dead end and the only only people who profited were the people who bought out her farm store here. So then three, four years later, the same buyer. We were in a conversation and he said, yeah, well, I have to talk to you because this, this great grocery store who we deliver all the carrots to organic in Holland, has given me some complaints of consumers that they did not find the carrots organic sweet anymore. And and that's a common complaint, because the carrots organically are grown the same variety as conventional. The organic farmers are fertilizing what organic manure, at least as much as the conventional colleague on the carrots, and we had also a lot of tastings, also with the farmer communities that we could not separate in a blind taste organic carrots from the conventional carrots. So I said, yeah, that's logical because of this and this and this and, and you know, remember a couple of years back, I mentioned this you tasty carrots. Yeah, so. So all right Now. So now we can get a little more concrete on this. And I want 10 cents more for my carrots. I say, oh, oh, oh, no, no, no, it's just a complaint and everybody should do it for the same price. But it's just a complaint. That should be sweeter. I said, okay, well, this is a dead end and because those varieties and that's that's a way of producing maybe cost a little more, so we we need to evaluate it, but that simply was not not possible then. So and we found that that's time also in the seeds producing business, there is a different relationship between producer and buyer. There is you're at the same level. So they're the reason we turn biodynamic. Because they said, well, we have a lot more demand for that seed and maybe that that fits you, because you don't use animal manure very little and maybe you should do a little when you go biodynamic. And since we were not dogmatic, that's fine. So we did that. And they are very interested in the way we can produce seeds that have a higher germination rate. I can say we did not have a germination rate of probably all our seeds under 95%, which is really high, and most crops have 98 or 99%. So they're really interested how these regenerative practices give this very good seed quality and they support me in researching. So they pay, for instance, for a plant sap and they pay for other sampling, and then they have researchers on their payroll who make these very good research papers on that in which we together grow. And how do you say?

Speaker 1:

Are you saying that the seed side is more interesting for now for an innovative and absolutely cutting edge farmer like yourself than growing food crops? And because there's more attention? There's attention for quality, germination rate and other things, much more than. Oh. Yeah, I got complaints about the flavor of the carrots, but I'm actually not going to do anything about it. Like if they get complaints about the seeds, it is of a different level. Is that what you're saying? What you discovered in the last years? That it actually at the moment is more interesting to grow with regenerative practices, really high quality seeds and, let's say, high quality crops.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, this is the way I feel it is. This is a sector the seed sector in which I can get my how do you say? All my effort I put in to get you can distinguish yourself.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I can get that evaluated.

Speaker 2:

I can get that not only financially but also personally. I feel really evaluated in what I do and that is very important for the rest of the chain because when I perceive produce from one hectare of radishes that goes to I don't know a thousand hectare of radishes that are grown for people to eat and we know from not only from nutrients but also from epigenetics that when they have a very good life here that seeds that are grown, that they also have probably a better quality of life at the farmer that grows them for the people to eat.

Speaker 1:

Do you have contact with these farmers? Yeah, a couple of them, because it's our children leaving a farm.

Speaker 2:

You hope they do care of them really well, otherwise they might not get to the full flourish they could be. I have contact with a couple of them and the nicest thing about these biorhylamic seed companies there are a couple they're really open about that, so it's all open pollinated seeds, so they don't have hybrids. We also grow hybrids for other companies, but they're very open. They also from in the catalog says from every seed which producer produced that. And then at the end of the catalog they have this section where all these producers are named and there they are and this is what they do and these are the practices that make them special. So that's very, very open.

Speaker 1:

Farmers can pick and choose. Yeah, exactly, I can call you even like. Hey, I noticed a very big difference with this radish, exactly.

Speaker 2:

And we know that can happen, because I think it was 2015 or 16, we had these seed potatoes and we bought one sack from a farmer at the one side of the town and one sack from the other. The one farmer did not have two sacks and the sack is at 1215 kilograms and we planned them next together and all the preparation were together and all the same, and at harvest we have this harvest there where I stand on, so I see all the potatoes at harvest and later in the barn. Of course, when sorting and selecting this one part of the field that was from the one farmer had 25% extra yield and no disease in comparison to the other, while the planting potatoes were exactly the same. I did not see any difference there and that was the first indication that if that farmer did something extra or better with his seed potatoes and I buy these, I have a better yield with his potatoes and I just buy potatoes for seed and I don't get to pick these that yield 25% better with no disease.

Speaker 1:

And I think there is still a great way to go because it's massive the difference that's yeah, because margins are, and if it's new to you for a year or not, if it's nutrients or epigenetics, I don't know. But when you say epigenetics, what do you mean? Let's dive into another Like you have.

Speaker 2:

I'm not an expert in that, but the way I understand it is you have these. You have this genetic blueprint, so to say, and some of these genes can in a life cycle is also for humans can be turned to honor off. So you have this blueprint, but not all the switches are at a one or zero and due to the environmental and that's also what the farmer does, but also the climate, environmental influences, some of the genes can be turned off or turned on. And the way I understand it is that if plant has a very good growing conditions and it's treated very well and in Norway that's with regenerative practices then these epigenetic alteration of the genetic blueprint gets to be a little more positive than if it is in a very stress situation and in that way this seeds can have probably but the research on that is for us also still to do probably a better growing result the next year at the farm. Who plants those seeds?

Speaker 1:

And so basically we've seen that something. There will be an interview coming on dairy cows. Actually it's been in the making for a while, but it comes on the epigenetics and even the genes are the same, in this case in the potatoes or something like that, but you won't see them expressed because they're not switched on, which is very interesting as a thought, because of course in the whole genetically modification train, let's say, they completely miss that piece of like. There might be genes in that plant that we really like to, but we cannot switch them on. We don't have to put them in. We actually there might already be there, but with the right circumstances, this great right soil conditions, right Growing conditions. I remember an interview with it, with then barber chef, then barber I will link it below where we were talking about a corn that was able to fertilize itself, but only in healthy soils. I'm just remembering it now and I thought that might be. It was always there. It just never had the right switches or nobody pressed the switches, which opens up a whole new discussion on what genes are there. And then how do you actually switch them on and off? And it turns out it seems like very healthy growing conditions are able to switch on and off a lot of things that we really like and does sort of away with the need of starting to cut and put things in, even though quote unquote it's all claimed to be safe. But it opens up a whole new realm, almost, of OK. Which switches can we find and how do we? Not even we don't need to know how we switch them. But if they switch on and get 25 percent more yield, that's a massive. Or 98 percent or 99 germination rate instead of 95. That's a lot. That's not something to be yet to sniff about. Let's say so, the epigenetic side. we're going to do more interviews around that because it just seems an absolutely fascinating piece of to get results While doing practices you anyway wanted to do.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you know, since we also produce hybrids, then you get a male and a female line. It's a lot harder in or impossible in that kind of crop, because that's that's every year. You start from scratch and when these open pollinated varieties, when we produce seed for other farmers and we also save seed for ourselves and we produce seed from that, then that variety is able to be a little adjusted or to how do you say, to learn from our circumstances and to to grow and grow in that and to develop a little.

Speaker 1:

And which is much more known or normal in, let's say, dairy and beef herds or we have done interviews around that with Fred Provance, like you know that are hurt over time like adjusts to the circumstances there and if you move it to a completely different place it will suffer greatly because it doesn't have the knowledge anymore to pick which. Which herbs can you eat, which grasses yes, which grasses know when, etc. How to behave in a context, and you're saying the same is with seeds yeah, it's the same with seeds.

Speaker 2:

And also, of course, the most of our buyers are from these bio dynamic companies who only have open pollinated seeds or hairland seeds, and of course they also have a lot more diversity in their species, so in the varieties, and they also try to how do you say to keep these old varieties. And they also encourage farmers. And that's exactly the opposite of the big seed companies that work with hybrids. They don't encourage farmers to save their own seeds. But these bio dynamic, open pollinated companies, they encourage farmers to save their own seeds for for reddish, for example, because they say, if you save your own seed and you know of course not every farmer is going to do that that variety will be adjusted to your location every year a little bit better, and that's only better for the sustainability of food production. And still they have a good business model. They also earn money.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, because you said the demand is there. How has it been in the last, let's say, 10 years on the bio dynamic seeds and the organic seeds in general? You found good partners, which means their business is good. Otherwise they are able to pay the researchers and to write the nice reports for you and the other growers. So how, of course, as a partner and a customer and, let's say, and a supplier, but do you have seen the market there to be, to be interesting or to be, because we only hear the stories of the big four or five or whatever the number is, of very different seeds. Let's say, how's been the other side?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, we saw with the corona times that we have one big buyer who has about 80% of what he sells is in these very tiny sacks with I don't know two grams or 10 seeds and it goes in the gardens of people and that sales amount doubled. So we also doubled with them and after Corona was gone, people left their garden and started flying again, or I don't know what.

Speaker 1:

The psychological explanation is for that so and those sales plummeted.

Speaker 2:

So only the real fanatic gardeners stayed and so that sales doubled and and and halved again. And that made us yeah, we had the need to diversify in that and find new buyers and we found those, and the demand from the professional gardeners is more or less the same and, yeah, we have about five seed companies who buy from us and we have around 20 different crops for seed.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and on the nutrient density, the quality side, you say when they have a good life here, let's say a better start. Do you measure that as well at the end when they go to, like when the radishes are grown, go to the end consumer? Because you say I have a connection with a few of those farmers that end up growing our seeds to crop. How have you looked into that and how have you explored?

Speaker 2:

Well, we do a lot of sampling and testing by laboratories to see what nutrients are in the crops, also at harvest, during the growth, of course, and at harvest, and it's only. It's difficult to compare because you only have your own seeds and there is just not a big database, also not by the seed companies, of what they have. They just have germinality. How do you say it? German ability.

Speaker 1:

German ability figures, and that's it, and that's the only thing you can very, very one KPI, that's it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's very, that's very hard and maybe some, some, some kind of disease that's in there or not. But but all these other factors not talking about epigenetics, of course, I don't know if that's, if that's researchable, but definitely not. Not nutrients, they don't have any data on that. So when we have data, it's still hard to say that's good or better or worse than than what it should be or than than what's what's normal, that's it. There's no benchmark yet.

Speaker 1:

And do you see like for yourself or for the farm in the future, that it keeps being or it stays mostly focused on the seed side or in an ideal world? And let's say you wanted to have more 50, 50, like food crops, of course, paid well for the quality they are. Or actually say I'm very comfortable with the the seed side of things because I'm actually touching so many hectares and like one hectare here could be 1000. Like you said. Actually, my impact is much bigger and the research I can do is much more comfortable. If I'm not growing food, I'm growing the seed for the food?

Speaker 2:

That's a very good question, because I often thought about that, because in the last five years it went from 5% seed to about 80% of the farm that's grown for seed. Only the carrots and the green peas are for for consumption, so to say, and I feel that for me it's important to also have one or two crops that people can eat and it's not to say that a radish, right now I can eat it, and in one or two weeks, when it starts bolting, I cannot eat it anymore. It's not nice, but till then now we eat it, and the same goes for kale and the same goes for cucumbers and the same goes for crests and all these crops. So we eat it in the consumption states and then it starts flowering and then you don't eat it anymore. And we also. I also want to taste the differences between what do I do with compost tea or with foliar fertilization or with inoculation at seed? What's the consumption difference? And then what's the seed difference? So we can have these two things in the one crop, because we have the whole crop cycle where a consumption grower would harvest the radish at 30 days and then you can only have in that phase.

Speaker 1:

You would like to also harvest, to do both the seeds and the consumption.

Speaker 2:

Yeah that's what we do. We test in the consumption phase, so to say, and in the seed phase, and so we always have this connection, because this plant for seed is always going to this consumption phase before it's at seed, and so we always have that. But I also think it's important to have a real, only crop for consumption, and right now it's carrots and green peas, and well, the potatoes are for seed, but we also sell them at our farm store.

Speaker 1:

You have a bit of a mix, and you always probably have a bit of a mix.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, and it's very good to also hear from the customers here at the farm store too. What do you think the sweetness?

Speaker 1:

of the carrots. Yeah, I know that's it.

Speaker 2:

I know the sweetness of a carrot is a subjective thing. We've been busy with the taste of carrots for a long time and there is a certain category of people, and I don't understand why. But they say, yeah, I don't like carrots that sweet. No, it's too sweet for you. Have these mashed potatoes with carrots, like in Holland that's really a Dutch cuisine to mash them together in one pot. Same you do with kale, you do with sauerkraut and okay, it's called Stamphoth, you know, of course. And they say in the Stamphoth we don't like the carrots that sweet and there's a certain percentage of which. I think those people in the last couple of decades have been getting used to carrots that just aren't that sweet. That's just the taste of carrots and we don't know how good carrot tastes aromatically. It's not just the sweetness, it's the aroma also, and they just don't like that anymore. So I think our taste is degrading yeah degrading and the question is which have we had. It's a minority of people, but there it is. Can we reset the tone?

Speaker 1:

Can we reset the tone? I think that's it. Yeah, is there a problem? But of course, as long as it's a small minority, it's not so bad for the reasons you know.

Speaker 2:

you just, you lost the fight when someone's oh, we have great tasting carrots. You lost the fight when they started. Yeah, it's so subjective.

Speaker 1:

It's so sweet, fascinating, and, just to end with a just to end, we're going to ask a few questions, and usually that it's a whole different rabbit hole. But as it's such a fascinating angle, and I think it's the first time, or one of the first time, we really and we should do it more often but really talk about seeds, what would be your, of course, without giving investment advice, but what would be your main takeaway for, let's say, the financial sector, of people that are investing their own money or other people's money, that are listening to this and are fascinated about the importance of real good seeds? Where should they look? Where should they quote, unquote, dig deeper, what should they read? Where would you point them to, let's say, in their journey?

Speaker 2:

That's a great question. What I see? These differences between these bigger companies, as I said, who only produce hybrids or outside of your GMO seeds, who are often owned by the chemical companies, and these smaller biodynamic or organic companies, who have also hybrids but mostly open pollinated seeds, and they have a different business model, but they're open in their genetic pool that they have. Everybody can take that and go develop with that and breed with that. But these companies don't have this big financial back support, so to say, and they have a need for keeping these old varieties and breeding new open pollinated varieties with better taste, who are better adjusted to organic circumstances, because a lot of varieties in the organic sector come from conventional breeding with fertilizer. So these are epigenetically bred in a system that is not organic and some of them, with high resistances, are suitable for organic. But that's different than breeding for organic and that's such a small sector. The organic breeding sector. That's breeding for organic purposes and they really need financial input. I know a lot of breeders and they're like monks. They don't have any money and they work and work out of passion. But they know that if they have a variety it's really small because most of the organic sector is using conventional varieties. They're suitable for organic, they're not treated mostly not organic seed and they just have such a small market to sell it to that they don't have a big profit when they have a good variety and that sector really needs a lot of financial support for our genetic diversity and also for our food quality in the future. That work should really be supported.

Speaker 1:

And just to get. It's not a big elephant usually in this podcast. But when you shared this story and somebody said, yeah, so great and good this biodynamic and organic, but what about feeding the world and what about yields and production which is interesting because we just discussed at the beginning the whole I think it's always an input output discussion we should have, and we always usually have, an output discussion and you said, yeah, we don't bring in a lot of nutrients from outside or actually close to zero. But when somebody just throws this what about feeding the world and yields, et cetera, discussion to you, what do you normally say when you're at the dinner party or when you're somewhere.

Speaker 2:

That's a really different discussion, of course Goen. Have you read?

Speaker 1:

this. What's your go-to answer? I'm asking for a threat, have you?

Speaker 2:

read this book of this Dutchman called Mino-Smith. He's also a biodynamic farmer and it's called I don't know if I have it here to sustainable future farming in 2040, I guess. Or put it in the next book. Yeah, so it's in Dutch. And this guy, he really took the effort, he went deep into the research. I remember you know it. I've heard, I think, a book you should read it, because I can now talk with you about 10 minutes about feeding the world and all these figures. In the West we only produce 12.5% of the world food and how much is spilled and all these things. But he has all these figures and the one that stood by me the most is that in the 1950s, when a lot of the work was still done by hand and by horses, the mechanization came in agriculture. There was about. I think and don't hold me on these figures, it's all in this book he really took the effort to get these figures right About. The input was 0.6 or 0.7 and the output was 1. So it was a net gain. And right now the input is 1.5 and the output is 1. So we think we're all really efficient. But if you see what kind of inputs we have in fuel, but also in fossil fuel that's used for the production of fertilizer and also of these chemical additives, it's also all made from oil and all these machinery and all these rare earth metals that are needed for all these electronics that are on tractors and machines and whatever, if you all put that together this is totally not an efficient system and that really stays by me. And of course you should then ask should you grow flowers? What is the nutritional output from that? It's zero. It gives a little joy to people and that's it. In Holland there are a lot of flowers, like 10,000 hectares of tulips. We also grew tulips organically and all these inputs that go in that. Then no one eats them. I know a lot of some of our flower bulbs went to this very expensive restaurant and they had flowers on the menu. Yeah, okay, there were two or three.

Speaker 1:

That's all. There's a different discussion.

Speaker 2:

But I just know that the whole narrative of feeding the world is, on a lot of ways, it's really easy to put aside and show that that is not the case in the Western part of the world. We do not feed the world, we simply don't.

Speaker 1:

I will put a link below. I was looking if I can find a book in English, but I did find a publication on the website of Wageningen University on the input output or output input, and it's indeed staggering. It went from a positive system, I think 1.04. I see here output versus input to like 0.16. Yeah, the amount of kilo view the amount of energy going into the system to get the calories out.

Speaker 2:

A lot of people make calculation and it's not good, simply not good.

Speaker 1:

No, it's like one thing Actually.

Speaker 2:

Yes, but you're not the expert in that, but I just know it's no this is Mino Smith.

Speaker 1:

This is the publication.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 1:

So it's a very I asked the question often because I simply am looking for different audiences, let's say the different. A different answer is needed, different context, and this is one we didn't hear before but I really like. So thank you. Thank you for that. And what if we switch the focus for a second or from your side, so no longer farmer and also not giving advice or direction for investors, actually being an investor yourself? What would you do if you had a billion euros to put to work?

Speaker 2:

Oh, that's a lot. So of course, you gave me this question earlier and you asked that.

Speaker 1:

I do all your guests.

Speaker 2:

So I thought about this. What really? But what we really need on this farm and on other farmers that are taking this regenerative journey is we need real agronomic insights and not only soil. Biology is important and composting is good. We cannot work with that. How do we make this compost? How do we apply, what kind of pump do we need that we don't damage the organisms All that kind of really great details. We need research on that, and I'm not saying that universities should do this research. Well, mostly it is that the universities take these initial ideas of farmers and they research that, but as they research that in three or four or five years, they take these couple of factors hopefully multi-factorial research and they research that. But this farmer, who has his whole life and private money invested in his farm, who is working on the system, is changing this every year, or how do you say? Hopefully changing it for the better every year, so five years later. Yeah, he is in a really different direction. So these farmers who are on the forefront, who put it all in, like in a casino. Put it all in every year, all their private money, everything. If they lose one year of all crops they are the bankrupt. Of course they have the worst of the soil, but the liquid funds are then gone. They need support and they do all this for work and also because they are growing all in financially every year. They also want to make this work with a very high motivation. When a researcher on a research farm has a failure on an experiment, it's okay, I get paid by the hour. An innovative farmer has a failure, he cannot buy a new chamber for his children. That's what's here to matter. We have five kids and we want to renovate our house. We have this building out in the 1870s and there are not enough rooms for these five children, because in the 1870s all these, they had big families. They slept in these closets bed status. So now we must make new chambers in the house when I have a failure here. My kids cannot sleep in a single chamber, they have to sleep together. So that's very personal and that gives a very high motivation to really make it work and to get all the books and all the research and all the podcasts, webinars, whatever of all the experts to get the most information to make it good. And what the best for us is is really agronomical information, and we find that out of all the communities that are mostly German speaking in Switzerland, austria and Germany, of these farmers that also have taken this German regenerative approach that's really practical. That tells you how to brew your compost tea, at what's the temperature and how long and what to look for. All these practical tools. That is what you need, these grips, and we are by far not there and we need support, financial support, to be able to take more experiments and to go further here on farms of farmers who are trying this, so we can get further faster and so that we learn from each other. So these networks are really important and these farmers are really important and we together need financial support.

Speaker 1:

So that's where you would put money to work and invest is really on the peer to peer with really good practical agronomic advice. Peer to peer farmer side of things, Because that's where the strength is and the speed is, and of course, universities can back that up later by saying oh, we see in practice that it works.

Speaker 2:

The farmers say this is a working system, but it's not in research. Okay, then that can be backed up by research, hopefully. But for the farmer that is not in the first place important. In the first place it's important that he knows what he can do and what he should do and what he can do and what he can do now, yeah, what he can do, now, what he can adjust? and what are these practical tools? Because if you make a cover crop mix, what should be in there? What plant families and what mixture, sowing day, termination strategy, all those things. And then if you mix this with radish or with grass or with potatoes or with carrots we make everywhere, we make undersauce and also in carrots and potatoes, and what possibilities and then you talk to the farmers from Switzerland and say, oh, yeah, I do it with oats because that attracts the wireworm. Oh, we also have wireworm, since we started a lot with cover crops. Oh, and that's maybe a good test. And then we test that with trips with oats and without oats, and that way we get hopefully further in the development a lot quicker.

Speaker 1:

And as a final question if you had a magic wand and could change one thing over so you have the magic power to change one thing overnight what would that?

Speaker 2:

be. I would try to change the narrative of conventional farming and alternative farming, because what we do now is still seen as an alternative type of farming. But I see it as the way in which you're trying the most to understand nature and to try to cooperate and steer that in the right direction in a form that you also can get your crops out of that. And I see the other part of farming, what is now called conventional or chemical farming. And yeah, this is how we do it and nature should listen and when we don't like this, we kill this. So we first we place a lot of fertilizer that pumps up the plants. Plants get sick, then we kill the disease or the plague and that's called conventional and everybody thinks that's normal and we have to kill everything and we can have every weeds because that's a threat and I think that's all a sign of that. Either your soil or your plant is not in balance and we know that now. But that's so logical and I would like that the narrative is that that is logical, that every plague, disease or weed is a sign of what we are doing with these microbial systems in our soil, in our plants, and that that the way of farming with nature in this regenerative way is the normal way. And okay, if people then want to go with chemicals, then we should call that just an alternative way or a chemical way. But that is not. That is not the normal natural way. And now it is. Oh yeah, that's, that's alternative. Oh yeah, what you do is very special and, oh yeah, very kind of weird, you know and that is so stupid because it's like, like nature, we should not think that is okay to use a new implement machine that is killing all the soil structure in the top 10 centimeter just because this, this, this company and this this constructor draw this machine it is okay for a farmer to use. Now you should think what does my soil biology need and what can I? What can I implement so that I benefit soil biology and my crop? And maybe there is a implement machine made for this, or I can develop one, or I can have one made and not. This is a new machine. Oh, okay, so that's a new technology in agriculture and that is, by definition, what I am allowed to use on my soil. It's the other way around. We're thinking out of technique and we're thinking so linear because this is really a round model. It's a jing and young. It's the farmer and the soil, it is the sun and the and the plant. That is the microorganism in the soil and the plant. It's all ying and young. It's very round.

Speaker 1:

And I'm doubting to ask a follow up question because it's such a nice end. What I have I actually wanted to you. What do your neighbors now think? Like are they I mean you, of course, with your father going organic and you were already a bit weirdos, let's say, has this as the view shifted? Or as you have been going, let's say, deeper and deeper? In the natural way, you also become weird and maybe the baseline shifted as well. Like what are your neighbors thinking currently of your operation? Are some also in transition? Are they curious about all the things you make yourself on the farm, probably more profitable than some others, about machinery and all of that? Or are you still very much the weirdos in town?

Speaker 2:

No, that really has shifted because, as I explained, in the first year it was really hard and people are thinking a lot of bad things and now there are a lot of good compliments and interest in how we do things and a lot of farmers have gone to minimum tillage here around, used a lot of cover crops and, yeah, we see that shift is going here and our neighbors are doing things of which I thought that they would never do a couple of years ago. I think, yeah, something is moving and I don't know if they would say it in that way like, oh yeah, we see that it's possible that you are doing it, we are doing it, that doesn't matter, that's okay. But you see a lot, and I talk a lot of two conventional farmers. There's a term, again, I won't say chemical, that's so negative, but I talk a lot to other farmers not all organic and they are all very positive about what we do. And then, when I explain a little about the background and how we try to focus on what soil biology needs and what's good for that, oh yeah, that's really logical. And, of course, and yeah, plants should not always be sick and yeah, we saw also in a very good field that we did not have to spray for disease, and oh yeah. But if you think a little further, then all those seeds are planted and I think that's nice. But I would really have, yeah, in my ideal view. See that that has really scaled up a lot and I think these communities of regenerative farmers which we are connected in a couple are really doing a good job, because there you have practical info that goes from farmer to farmer, mostly online or in WhatsApp groups. That goes really fast and that way you learn from each other, and that farmer tells his neighbor who is maybe not regenerative yet, and he says oh and that way it spreads like well, not like an oil, but it spreads really fast yeah.

Speaker 1:

And within those groups. I'd like to ask you a question inspired by John Kempf on where do you think different? Or where do you think different and I like to ask it among your peers, like when you're in the German speaking, let's say, the deep end of the pool of the regenerative farmers who don't have to be convinced about soil life, et cetera. But do you notice sometimes, like if you go to the courses, et cetera, where are you different, you as Aaron the farmer? Where do you think different than your peers who are very deep into this?

Speaker 2:

There is this whole regenerative model out of Germany called negative and land with shafts, and, dave, this all describes how you should go with the green manures and with your minerals and compost these, and how you loosen your soil and so further. Also what you do with your animal manure. You also ferment that. But, we on all these points, we try to go the step further. So, all right, we make compost. There is this recipe, you can buy this brewer and you have a protocol for that. But we want to know what's in it. So my dad took a cross-pocket course a couple years back and now we check and we test with different ingredients and different brewing temperatures. We developed our own brewer together with his Swiss company and we have a contact with that. They come here and we go there to Switzerland to talk about them and to really deepen into every subject. Also, with green manures, okay, you can get these standard mixes. These seed companies have these standard mixes and they work fine. They're set together by these consultants of the regenerative agriculture in Germany. But we want different mixes, we want better mixes, we want to optimize, we want more plant families, we want to mix them with seed crops. So all these subjects you have farmers who say, oh, I just followed the protocol, and of course that's also hard, and also you learn things and you adjust a little. But we have, so to say, a lot more knobs that we want to fine tune. Call it 100, call it 1000 knobs that we want to fine tune. We want to fine tune everything.

Speaker 1:

And did you ever get into the temptation or maybe you did as well to start selling some of the mixes or your knowledge in that way, or maybe adjusted machinery or to basically sort of switch not to the other side but be a different actor in this space in that sense? Or maybe a mix is for your neighbor, or something like that, because at some point it's nice if every farmer does it, but at the same time in your context there might be neighbors that you're much better, better brewer. Why should I?

Speaker 2:

do all of that work. That is it.

Speaker 1:

That's that ever like with the seeds. Basically that's the development.

Speaker 2:

Last year, one, two years, we are really thinking and talking with partners about special compost, the compost brewer seed mixes, as you said, and knowledge in this red generative community, maybe as kind of a consultant. But I find it really hard because I'm really modest and I don't like to tell other people what to do or what they should do, because I think we ourselves are not here that. But then they say, yeah, but you have so much experience. Yeah, yeah, same thing.

Speaker 1:

You don't want them to do something, mostly of how it's not done. But that's also good experience.

Speaker 2:

And no, we are really trying to find a way now and how to do that. For me it's the biggest fear that I am a true farmer. I sit on the tractor myself, I brew the compost team myself, but I also do all the managing and all the learning and all the contacts. I do this myself. So I have one employee who is in me and I have one loose employee and then I have me, and I think that is important to know when you are working with this machine. Incorporating cover crop or this small piece is not right yet and we should adjust, and so on and so on. And I have a little bit of fear, when I go more in sharing and maybe having compost to sell and putting more effort in that more time, that I have less time in experiencing the farm yeah, in being a farmer.

Speaker 1:

I like being a farmer. You used to have a successful regent farm and now it's mostly setting books and on stage.

Speaker 2:

And also the development. And that's what I heard from some consultants. They say, yeah, I used to farm a lot and have a lot of experience, and now I take that experience again from other farmers because I come there by, but I'm always traveling and giving speeches, but all my experience comes from other farmers and maybe a garden or something, and for me that's still all my experience comes from a farm and all the people I tell or come here on courses, they say, yeah, but you're a true farmer and what you say you really had in your own hands. So that's the most true that we can get. When we get from a consultant, yeah, maybe you just say something or you heard something from another farmer there's always a chance of miscommunication, of course, and with us, with me, that's not the case. But if I only farm, then I cannot tell other people. So there must be a kind of a balance in that. Yeah, yeah, what's the balance?

Speaker 1:

That's new. For me, that's new You're a farmer. That's new. You're impacting 1000 hectares with a hectare of seed and it's finding that equivalent in the knowledge and equivalent in the inputs or other inputs, because seed are inputs as well, and I'm sure you will. I'm very thankful for you to come here. I know it's your first podcast ever, so thank you for being here and having that experience with us and thank you so much for the work you do every day, obviously in the regenerative space and coming here to share about it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it was a great opportunity, koen, and thanks that you gave me the opportunity to do this.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end. For the show notes and links we discussed in this episode, check out our website investing in RegenerativeEgrCulturecom. Forward slash posts. If you liked this episode, why not share it with a friend or give us a rating on Apple Podcasts? That really helps. Thanks again and see you next time.

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