getting better
03/07/2024

Burda goes farming: A day in the countryside

What does regenerative agriculture look like in reality, and is climate-friendly farming just a trend or the future? We visited farmer Julia Vogt-Selmayr to get first-hand answers.

We are standing with farmer Julia Vogt-Selmayr and her son Josef in the middle of the vast sugar beet field at Schlossgut Erching, a family farm north of Munich. Our shoes are covered in mud and the smell of fresh soils fills the air. We've come to know Julia through Klim, our partner in regenerative agriculture. She is one of the farmers Burda is supporting through Klim to convert her farm from conservative to regenerative methods. For the past four years, Burda has been actively promoting regenerative agriculture as part of its sustainability strategy. But what does this commitment entail? How do regenerative farmers differ from their others, and more importantly, why? These are the questions we're going to explore first hand today.

Julia has been running her farm for many years. The family business has a rich history spanning 125 years. A time in which much has changed. Now, with the involvement of her son Josef, Julia is taking the farm in a new direction: away from conventional practices and toward regenerative agriculture. Why the shift? "As farmers, we experience the effects of climate change firsthand, and we have the land at our disposal to take action to protect the climate and the environment. By using the right methods, we can ensure our own yields while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting biodiversity," she explains.

More than organic

For Julia, that entails minimal plowing and year-round cover crops to keep fields green. In essence, it means treating the soil with the utmost care to enhance soil life and ensure robust root penetration. But is this just another form of organic farming? Not quite. While these concepts are often thrown together and share similarities, they are very different. Organic farming emphasizes plant health, while regenerative agriculture focuses on actively improving the soil. The goal? Soil that can naturally regenerate itself, making it more resilient, fertile, and able to store maximum carbon.

Diversity over monoculture

Julia shows what this approach looks like in her fields. Instead of striving for perfect tidiness, her fields have plant debris and cover crops mixed in with the main crops. Along the edges are strips of flowers. What appears to be bare earth is teeming with life underneath. Below the surface, cover crop roots collide with fungi and earthworms, along with countless microorganisms and bacteria invisible to the naked eye. It's a haven for plants and animals. This diversity enhances ecosystem functionality, resulting in positive outcomes: greater nutrient uptake, improved soil fertility, a thicker layer of humus, and increased soil carbon storage.

Why are farmers hesitant?

If the benefits are so clear, why aren't more farmers adopting these practices? It's a fair question. Julia explains, "There is a lack of knowledge and, more importantly, a lack of financial resources. Without a solid understanding, all they initially see is more weeds, less marketable products and consequently lower yields." Julia also points out the additional cost of purchasing new, soil-friendly equipment. In addition, conventional methods still dominate agricultural education. What's needed most to change, she stresses, is support from outside.

Time for a change

This is where Burda's commitment comes in. By partnering with the Bioland Foundation and Klim, Burda is providing financial support and expertise to farmers like Julia who are transitioning to regenerative practices. Our goal? To promote regenerative agriculture. In other words: reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by cultivating rich, fertile soils and contribute to a healthier world.

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