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Farmers in the Spotlight with Patrick Holden

Posted 3 years, 6 months ago in SFYN Blogs

Working on the land may be difficult, but we need the youth to establish the future of our agriculture. Patrick Holden, founder director of the Sustainable Food Trust, interviewed four young farmers, the heroes of future of food and farming, and asked them what attracted them to farming.

Written by Alessandro Zeppegno
Photo Credit: Davide Oddone

Patrick Holden knows what it takes to be a farmer, even at a young age.  After his study Biodynamic Agriculture at the Emerson College, he returned to Wales in 1973 to establish a mixed community farm. He settled up a business and is now making Cheese with raw milk while he involves himself in the discussion about ‘how can we make our products affordable for everyone’ and ‘how can we establish a major global transition to more sustainable food systems.’ 

The first young farmer that Patrick Holden interviewed is Dilani Renuka Chandrarathne. Dilani is a young woman who got involved in the world of farming at a very young age.         

Dilani Renuka Chandrarathne: “After my grandfather’s death in the 90s, my parents continued to work on some of the paddy lands and continued to cultivate rice. I saw my parents and the other farmers in the paddy fields, and I was familiar with every steps in the paddy cultivation. In this way, my younger brother and I were involved in paddy farming from our early days.”            

She got the opportunity to study at the village school, later to study at the city school and in the end to study at the state university. However, after her studies, she returned to the land to start to work as a rice farmer again.

On the farm, together with her father and brother she developed the traditional rice farming, processing and marketing on the farm. The organization called Oxfam plays an important role in this process. It supports to develop eco-friendly paddy farming through agro-ecological methods and to build capacities in developing the traditional rice value chain in the Kegalle district. The family sells the rice together with other fresh, chemical-free vegetables.            

Dilani Renuka Chandrarathne:
My dream is that we continue to promote and expand our rice entrepreneur, so that one day, our entire country will return into a special rice community. Rice is not simply my livelihood. It is my life and present me a greater opportunity to serve the people in my country." 

For most people in Sri Lanka, it is not economical profitable to do organic farming. Also the cities are attracting young people, while they are needed on the land. Fortunately, Dilani is able to continue using the traditional varieties, continue cultivating the rice and continue working with 40 other farmers and 20 women who are working with her to make her dream come true.

Christian John Adams is the second member in the panel and represents the small scale fishers from South Africa. As a small scale Fisher from South Africa he supplies freshly caught fish to several communities. His caught is seasonal based and he tries to be as sustainable as possible. As the chairman of Coastal Links South Africa, a community organization that represents more than 5000 fishers across the coastal provinces of South Africa, he runs the meetings on local, provincial and national level.

Due to new and changing policies in South Africa, fishing is not an easy job. Christian himself is arrested twice, even though his fishing method is a more sustainable one than others use. While being a fisher may be difficult and is mostly done by men, Christian tries to introduce women into this market even as the youth that now feel more attracted to other kind of jobs.   

The third interviewee is Bas Antonissen, an Organic Pig Farmer from the Netherlands. Together with his mum and dad, he started realizing a dream: to turn the farm into an organic one. While it may seem easy, to become organic you have to take a lot of steps and risks. However, Bas never lost his faith:

Bas Antonissen:With every dollar or euro you spend, you have the opportunity to make a change.”

If you want to become an organic farmer, you have to decide on several issues. When do you think your farm is an organic one? What procedures do you have to follow? What will you feed your animals? What seeds will you use? It may be difficult to become an organic farmer, Bas is confident that organic farming is best for everybody. 

Bas Antonissen: "It would not only better for me if more people start producing organic, it will be better for everyone

The last panel member that is interviewed is Fiorela Villanueva Fuentes. Fiorela is a 30 years old organic farmer from Peru. On her farm, she cultivates avocados, chili and cherimoyas, she seeds plants that grow at altitudes of 1,600-2,000 meters and has some fruit trees that will start to grow after three years.

Twelve years ago, she decided to dedicate herself to agriculture, together with her brother. They created an ecological tourist center in their village to recover, restore and promote the wildlife in her area. People are often not aware of what the environment they are living in offers. By promoting healthy consumption in her area, she tries to spread knowledge not only about the food products itself, but also about its effect on your body and the environment.

Four young farmers, four unique stories, but they all have, at least, one thing in common: they want to sustain the future of agriculture.