Does the world need more farmers?

75 visions for Berlin : Why we should get our food from regional farmers

The author Jochen Fritz is a graduate agricultural engineer and board member of Regionalwert AG Berlin-Brandenburg. It supports organic farming in Brandenburg and Berlin with citizen shares. He is a sideline farmer at the Werder organic farm, where he keeps water buffalo, grazing chickens and sheep.

Our diet is responsible for 40 percent of global climate change. That has to change, and quickly! We need a radical food and agricultural turnaround.

As one of the trend metropolises in the world, Berlin must play a pioneering role. With a radical re-localization of our food supply.

Actually, it should be crystal clear to all of us: The way we currently eat, we cannot continue. Fatty "junk food" or 1.5 liter cola bottles with cheap sugar for 30 cents from the supermarket endanger the health of our children. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns: Overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions.

In addition, the daily piece of pork for 2.50 euros in the refrigerated counter of the discounters favors global warming.

Berlin needs many new farmers who can provide us with fresh vegetables, fruit, milk, grain, legumes, seeds and species-appropriate meat.

And for that, Berlin also needs Brandenburg. But more and more small farms have to give up, they are particularly badly affected by the death of farms. It was not just Corona that showed how important their regional products are for our security of supply.

In the post-reunification period, agriculture in the region was geared exclusively towards the world market. Unfortunately, this destroyed existing processing structures. For example, a town like Nauen in the Havelland had a slaughterhouse, a dairy, a mill and a soap factory before the fall of the Wall that recycled the waste. And today? Nothing.

Regional processing locations need to be rebuilt as quickly as possible. This is the only way we can process the agricultural raw materials from the region, whether organic or conventional. This is necessary if we want to supply Berlin with regional products. And of course - this is often overlooked in Berlin - the 2.5 million Brandenburgers also need food from the region. Building regional value chains not only helps farmers to get better prices and to supply a safe market.

We need investments - otherwise there will be hardly any agriculture in 20 years

Local food production also enlivens rural areas and creates value instead of driving them out of the region with the grain truck. Of course, that costs money first of all. But we should be clear about this: we are at a turning point. And there is no doubt that we urgently need this investment in our future. Otherwise there will be hardly any farmers left to provide for us in 20 years' time. Then the country will be in the hands of large corporations.

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That is why we should now make it our task to strengthen regional agriculture. Get involved yourself, for example by supporting the networking of producers and consumers in projects such as Solidarity Farming (SoLaWi) or market swarming. Have vegetable boxes delivered to you or buy your milk from a local dairy.

The more direct the contact between producers and consumers, the better. Brandenburg agriculture needs even more support in order to survive in the long term. They are already doing initiatives such as the organic soil cooperative, Kulturland e.G. or Regionalwert AG. They support small businesses so that they can keep their land, build value chains and develop their farms. Numerous new initiatives for more organic agriculture, agroforestry systems, regenerative agriculture and sustainable, species-appropriate animal husbandry are encouraging.

The work of the farmers needs appreciation and recognition

But politics must also act and finally enact laws against the purchase of land by non-agricultural investors and for securing fair land prices.

The daily hard work of farmers needs more appreciation and recognition. Because only together with them can we achieve the food turnaround in Berlin.

[In our people newsletters we report weekly from the twelve Berlin districts. You can order the newsletter free of charge here: people.tagesspiegel.de]

Since the beginning of the corona crisis, Berliners have been cooking more themselves again. The appreciation of food has increased. In the future, more Berlin canteens should also orient themselves towards this and cook fresh, with products from the surrounding area. Canteens need to be a place of enjoyment and communication, not just calorie intake. Good food can no longer be a luxury product.

The fact that everyone can afford to eat healthily is also a government responsibility and cannot be left to corporations like Aldi or Lidl alone. Incidentally, this also saves immense health costs, curbs climate change and farm deaths. And then eating is fun again.

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