Stefanie Peters

Returning to Her Roots to Shape the Future of Farming

I didn't always want to be a farmer. However, even when I was figuratively and literally far afield, I was never fully removed from farming life. My great-grandfather, grandfather and father are all farmers, but I went to university to study biochemistry with the dream of working in a laboratory, focusing on molecular biology. Then, in the midst of earning my PhD, I decided to return to the family farm. Why did I make the move?

First and foremost: family. More pointedly, I was drawn to being part of the next generation of family to manage the farm, extending a proud tradition that mirrored my individual aspirations more closely than I initially realized.

I was energized by the opportunity.

Farming is a challenging line of work, and I like that. Every day, I have to make decisions, organize and reorganize countless priorities based on variables subject to the whims of Mother Nature. I am lucky to be in contact with so many types of people, so I never stop learning things.

Agro-Farm GmbH Nauen is run by a team of 20 people, and it feels like family. In fact, 90 percent of those working on the farm started as apprentices. They're invested in the farm's success, but not by conventional measures. It's less about the money, and more about doing good for the farm and the people and places it provides for. That shared sense of purpose makes it easy for me to get up in the morning, to go to work. Work is fun.

Stefanie Peters, Farmer, Agro-Farm GmbH Nauen
Stefanie Peters, Farmer, Agro-Farm GmbH Nauen
Stefanie Peters,
Farmer, Agro-Farm GmbH Nauen

How does Agro-Farm GmbH Nauen demonstrate sustainability?

We officially became part of the Bayer ForwardFarming network of independent farms in September 2017, but sustainability has been the focus at Agro-Farm GmbH Nauen from the beginning. We believe in working with resources not against them. We do not work against nature – we work with it and for it. We want people, especially tomorrow's farmers, to know that sustainability and agriculture is one thing and not two separate ideas.

We're always looking at how to maintain our sustainable focus while increasing efficiency on the 2,500 hectares of farmland we maintain. With all the new laws and regulations, it becomes more and more difficult to only live from agriculture itself, so "conventional farming" is no longer an option.

We only use plant protecting agents when necessary and are testing new technologies to aid in making more strategic determinations. We can track how much biomass was produced in an area to inform hyper-targeted applications, for example, and use various apps to monitor farm conditions, including weed identification. Bee banks, flowering strips in the fields and cover crops are just some of the examples of biodiversity initiatives on the farm.

Perhaps older generations would've characterized working in the agricultural business as a man's thing, but it isn't. So just do it.

Stefanie Peters

Who will shape the dialogue around modern agriculture?

The biggest challenge for agriculture in Europe definitively is finding young people who want to work in the industry, and we believe that starts with dialogue. We regularly invite students and young people to the farm, sharing the experience – perhaps even opening the door to recruit potential future farmers. Dialogue also has to extend beyond students. With countless ag-centric social media accounts, meetings, symposiums, we have the chance to more easily connect with politicians and other influencers online and offline. This is critical to fostering more discourse and understanding around what farming means, what are the challenges, and what does or does not make sense for farmers and consumers alike.

And I don't feel there is a gender problem or big challenge for women in agriculture just because we are women. At least not for my generation. Perhaps older generations would've characterized working in the agricultural business as a man's thing, but it isn't. So just do it!

Read the International Finance Corporation's report entitled "The Business Case for Women's Employment in Agribusiness."

Learn more about Agro-Farm GmbH Nauen and the ForwardFarming network here.

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