Nieuws - 9 juli 2018

Blog: Nothing beats farm excursions

Donatella Gasparro

Field trips are a great occasion for showing off glamour farm clothes, says blogger Donatella Gasparro. But there's more to it.

© Sven Menschel

‘Farming looks mighty easy when your plough is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.’  Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Wageningen Campus study environment is great. But nothing beats farm excursions.

When it comes to Organic Agriculture, every paper, lecture or discussion materialises on the farm. And – luckily enough – we as students have the chance to visit quite a few of them; often those which are putting into practice ecologically sound techniques, or closing farm cycles, reconnecting with consumers, creating new markets, re-discovering tradition, or, in brief: making the change.

Earthworm hunting
Excursions are a lot of fun for sure. We’re all excited about displaying our earthworm hunting skills or digging deep holes in loamy sandy soils, as well as petting cows and lambs and having deep philosophical conversations with free-range chickens. Field trips are also a great occasion for showing off glamour farm clothes. All possible patterns on rainboots sparkle in the dairy farm grass. Unless you’re Dutch: you’re used to that.

If it’s raining all afternoon, you better seize the moment and boast your cat-ears-equipped umbrella.

But there’s much more to it than this.

When farmers share their story and their driving passion, when they explain how and why they got to that point and what is going to happen after, there our daily readings and conversations start to take shape. Changes to sustainable ways of farming are not only happening: they’re also being successful, and they’re spreading. But why aren’t they spreading faster? Why aren’t all farms like those we visit, or better?

From soil to selling
Real-life farming choices are quite far from what happens in meta-analysis reviews or in laboratories. From soil to selling, farmers have to take into account all possible variables. And (more or less) revolutionary choices are not only driven by rationality or extension services.

Drivers for transition to sustainable (or, more ambitiously, regenerative) systems root deep in one’s consciousness and memory, from childhood landscapes to the question of an 8-years-old daughter, from looking for good life challenges to overseas inspiration.

We as (future) scientists – or something like that – often leave out all the irrational forces that ultimately make things happen. How can we make room for and give value to this?

P.S. I will never forget the three generations of farmers waving at our bus when leaving from Hornhuizen: grandpa, dad and mum, the kids. All of them with spontaneous smiles of satisfaction. Take home message? There’s hope.

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