Klaus Kirsch

Learning on a Living, Breathing Farm

ForwardFarms provide generations young and old with a tangible place to learn about the farming process and the benefits of innovations in sustainable agriculture.

Nowhere is growth more apparent than looking out over a farm field. Farmers plant a seed, cultivate the sapling and take pride in the bountiful harvest. In the same way, teachers seek to plant a seed for the love of learning in their students and encourage this love to grow throughout their schooling. Bayer ForwardFarms present an opportunity for students and teachers of all ages and backgrounds to exchange directly with farmers and learn about agriculture beyond the walls of a traditional classroom, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of farming. From educational partnerships, to farm visits and workshops, ForwardFarms promote demonstration, dialogue and partnership to learn with, and from, each other.

At Damianshof, the first ForwardFarm in Germany, farmer Bernd Olligs welcomes teachers and students to visit his farm throughout the year. In partnership with “Stadt und Land,” teachers can gain educational insights at the farm. Students have the opportunity to plant seeds, build insect hotels and, quite literally, make farming more tangible.

To Olligs, education is as equally as important as the production of high-quality food. “It is very important to communicate and work with the teachers in my region, so that educational content around modern agriculture is properly passed on to younger generations,” said Olligs, whose family has managed the farm since 1845. “After all, I see it as though I am borrowing Damianshof from my children, rather than having inherited the land from my father.”

Klaus Kirsch
Klaus Kirsch
Dr. Klaus Kirsch,
Global Manager, Bayer ForwardFarming

Just outside of Berlin, AGRO-FARM GmbH Nauen, one of the newest farms in the Bayer ForwardFarming network, also has plans to interact with the younger generation.

At a secondary school level, Het Groene Hart recently took part in a week-long event for biology teachers to come together and partake in new learnings and professional development sessions with the farm as a setting for inspiration. This Dutch ForwardFarm regularly welcomes visitors of all ages and backgrounds, and places emphasis on the conversation around sustainable farming and modern technologies supporting farmers in all aspects of their work.

Educating and inspiring younger generations of potential future farmers is a topic that is equally important to the owners of Hof ten Bosch, in Belgium. “The average age of farmers in Belgium is 55,” said farmer Jan Peeters, who manages the farm with his brother, Josse. “So, in order to assure a sustainable future of farming, we have to find ways to include younger generations.”

The brothers have found several ways to address this challenge as a Bayer ForwardFarm, most recently hosting the Youth Ag Summit at their farm, welcoming 100 young leaders, age 18-25, from around the world to the farm for an afternoon of discussion and learning.

“I think it’s much easier to learn about farming and sustainability by visiting a farm,” said Marine Detouillon, a Youth Ag Summit delegate from France. “The best way to learn is to see and to ask questions of experts. I think it would be good for classes and schools to organize group visits to real farms whenever possible.”

Additionally, a partnership between Hof ten Bosch and the University of Ghent has allowed graduate students and farmers to connect through the launch of an official ForwardFarming Lecture Chair, an endowed position focusing on precision farming and biodiversity, and providing an extension of the university research facilities on the farm. Researchers from the university have utilized the acreage to study the soil with new technologies, among studies in other areas currently in place on the farm.

“Thanks to being able to visualize our soil’s characteristics [with the help of the Ghent-provided technologies], we have been able to better adapt fertilization and crop treatment within a single plot of land,” said Peeters.

As the ForwardFarming network grows, so too have the opportunities to share the important benefits of technology and innovation in farming. From showing how farming and environmental challenges are being resolved on real farms, to providing a place for the public to experience the farming process, the initiative serves as an ideal, tangible setting to foster dialogue and engagement with generations old and young to promote a successful and sustainable future for farming.

Learn more about the Bayer ForwardFarming initiative and its network of independent farms here.

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