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Part 1 of a series about regenerative agriculture in France
Part 1 of a series about regenerative agriculture in France
News 07/07/2021


France is Europe’s largest agricultural producer. After the Second World War, the country invested massively in the industrialisation of its agriculture. Productivity per hectare exploded. From a country suffering from chronic food shortages, France became one of the world’s largest food exporters. Agribusinesses transformed this abundance into increasingly numerous and convenient consumer products. Shelves forever full. It was the green revolution. With the food industry as its axis.

The reality for French farmers was different. After witnessing a productivity miracle on their land, larger volumes came with lower prices, rising input costs and more debt. In time, it was clear that this revolution came at the expense of the farmers’ essential capital: soil and people. Intensive practices destroyed organic matter (i.e. life) in the ground. Millions, starting with many farmers’ sons and daughters , moved away from rural areas. For much of the land and its people, the green revolution became synonymous with a steady depletion of its life forces.

Earthworm Foundation created the Living Soil initiative in 2018 so that the interests of farmers, business and society can be aligned. We know productive agriculture can be practiced in ways that restore soil, increase biodiversity, reduce pollution and capture vast amounts of carbon. It is called “regenerative agriculture”. Yet we also know that farmers cannot do this alone; the whole food supply chain has to change to serve the land, and not solely consumers. It is a revolution, with the soil as its axis.

This is the story of a life-scale experiment to realise this vision. It describes Northern France’s changing rural landscape, where the Living Soil initiative started, along with the supply chain connected to it. It shows what tools are being developed to support the transition towards regenerative agriculture in this region and beyond.

Yet more than just tools, much will depend on the human qualities of the people pioneering this revolution. This story is told through their vision and their work.

Earthworm Foundation created the Living Soil initiative in 2018 so that the interests of farmers, business and society can be aligned. We know productive agriculture can be practiced in ways that restore soil, increase biodiversity, reduce pollution and capture vast amounts of carbon. It is called “regenerative agriculture”. Yet we also know that farmers cannot do this alone; the whole food supply chain has to change to serve the land, and not solely consumers. It is a revolution, with the soil as its axis.

This is the story of a life-scale experiment to realise this vision. It describes Northern France’s changing rural landscape, where the Living Soil initiative started, along with the supply chain connected to it. It shows what tools are being developed to support the transition towards regenerative agriculture in this region and beyond.

Yet more than just tools, much will depend on the human qualities of the people pioneering this revolution. This story is told through their vision and their work.

The System

“Living Soil is a real-life, real-time experiment in the whole value chain. This is how we will co-create.”

Pascal Boivin, Professor of Soil Sciences and Agronomy, HEPIA, University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland

The food system comprises two sub-systems, seemingly in tension with one another. The landscape –composed of the farmer and his land, which (should) obey the laws of a living system; and the supply chain – which follows the rules of industry. The Living Soil project acknowledges and uses this tension as a ground for change.

The Landscape

“What is unsettling at first with this type of farming, is that not doing anything is already doing a lot.”

Thomas Leroux, Farmer in the Santerre region of Northern France

Farmers

The Santerre region is one of Northern France’s most fertile landscapes, producing vast quantities of cereals, potatoes and beetroot.

Thomas Leroux has been farming here for 20 years. Like most farmers in the area, he has seen productivity fall, as fertiliser, pesticide and other costs have risen. He joined the Living Soil initiative in early 2019, after realising that “working the soil was actually destroying it”. With Earthworm’s support, he stopped ploughing his land and let the soil do its work. He used diverse cover crops to make sure his land was covered all year. He diversified and extended crop rotation.

Good things have already happened. Using less machines and chemicals, his operational costs have fallen. His fields show signs of greater resilience. Climate change is impacting Santerre, with more frequent and intense droughts. but with healthier soil and cover crops, Thomas’s fields are more able to retain humidity, and his seeds germinate more easily, compared to his neighbours’.

. With other farmers in the project Thomas is learning what variety of crops and rotation work best. They monitor progress by measuring organic matter’s evolution in their soil. No farmer involved in the initiative, so far regrets making the transition, and none that Thomas knows, have made the shift back to intensive farming.

The toughest part is making the leap: from a system farmers know, albeit one loaded with failings, to one which asks them to rely on their knowledge of the land and capacity to adapt and experiment.

The Landscape: Farmers

The Santerre region is one of Northern France’s most fertile landscapes, producing vast quantities of cereals, potatoes and beetroot.

Thomas Leroux has been farming here for 20 years. Like most farmers in the area, he has seen productivity fall; as fertiliser, pesticide and other costs have risen. He joined the Living Soil initiative in early 2019, after realising that “working the soil was actually destroying it.” With Earthworm’s support, he stopped ploughing his land and let the soil do its work. He used diverse cover crops to make sure his land was covered all year; diversifying and extending his crop rotation.

Good things have already happened. Using less machines and chemicals, his operational costs have fallen. His fields show signs of greater resilience. Climate change is impacting Santerre, with more frequent and intense droughts. But with healthier soil and cover crops, Thomas’ fields are better able to retain humidity; and his seeds germinate more easily compared to his neighbours.

With other farmers in the project, Thomas is learning what variety of crops and rotations work best. They monitor progress by measuring organic matter’s evolution in their soil. No farmer involved so far regrets making the transition, and none that Thomas knows have shifted back to intensive farming.

The toughest part is making the leap – from a system farmers know, albeit one loaded with failings, to one which asks them to rely on their knowledge of the land and capacity to adapt and experiment.

The Supply Chain: Cooperatives

Cooperatives, brands and retailers all shape what happens in Santerre’s farming landscape.

The French system of agricultural cooperatives, created after the Second World War, was promoted as a way for farmers to pool their resources to purchase equipment and seeds, while sharing e the means of productions and sales. Today 75% of French farmers are part of one of the country’s 2600 cooperatives.

While the cooperative model helped modernise French agriculture, it now hinders the emergence of better forms of farming. The cooperative’s core business relies largely on the sale of fertilisers, pesticides and heavy machinery.. But regenerative agriculture, leads to those inputs steadily reducing, creating a very different business model.

The NORIAP cooperative has more than 8500 farmers and offers all the usual cooperative services. But it understands that it needs to evolve with its farmers and integrate soil health in its work. Working with Living Soils, NORIAP is trying to navigate the difficult transition between responding to the needs of the old farming model while supporting the emergence of the new.

The Supply Chain: Brands

“We need time for practices to change. The difficulty we face is that these kinds of changes usually take much longer than an accounting year to start materialising.”

Christophe Klotz, Director of Sustainable Development and Shared Value, Nestlé France

Most major brands today vow to protect the environment and support the communities they impact.. But as their supply chains have grown in length and complexity, these brands have never been further away from the land where their raw materials are produced.

Biochemist Jean-Manuel Bluet’s career inside Nestlé has taken to all parts of the supply chain, including in the Philippines, where saw how forests had been devastated by human activities. In 2009 he created the Department of Sustainable Development of Nestlé France which he led until recently.

Jean-Manuel’s varied experience means he looks at issues holistically. And he realised it that most of Nestlé’s environmental impact (55%) came from agricultural fields not its factories. So when Nestlé initiated its “Create Shared Value” (CSV) for nature and communities in 2010, one of Jean-Manuel’s priorities was finding ways to support farmers in Nestlé France’s supply chains.

Potato farming was an early focus. The main factory for Mousline, Nestlé’s purée brand, is in the heart of Santerre. Every day 500 tons of potatoes arrive there from 160 local farms. Potatoes are commonly transformed into different products. Buyers requirements, often set far from the ground, follow industry’s needs.

Production flows might impose harvesting no matter the conditions, even when fields are too humid and tractors risk damaging the soil. The choice of potato species itself is often problematic. Buyers’ often impose species that work well for the industrial processes but are catastrophic for the soil. Jean-Manuel and Nestlé work with farmers to overcome such tensions.

Jean-Manuel’s replacement is agronomist Christophe Klotz who successfully led a project phasing out pesticides and preserving biodiversity in the landscapes where Nestlé produced its water brands Vittel and Perrier. His experience working with farmers and local authorities convinced him that “creating shared value means listening and co-creating with everyone in that landscape”.

Nestlé signed an ambitious climate pledge in September 2019, and aim to become carbon neutral by 2050. I Both Jean-Manuel and Christophe know that to achieve this target Nestlé must get closer to the land and its farmers.

The Supply Chain: Retailers

“What we want is to learn and establish a different relationship with our producers. To sit down and work together.”

Isabelle Hoffmann, Head of CSR & Responsible Procurement, Lidl

One reason brands overlook what is happening in the field is that retailers do not value products’ origin and environmental qualities, and are primarily driven by cost.

Lidl, one of France’s leading discount retailers, is following a different path. Isabelle Hoffmann, the company’s Head of CSR and Responsible Procurement, says the apparent contradiction between price and sustainability should be worked through..

Lidl’s involvement in Living Soil in Santerre is part of the retailer’s intention to become a trusted partner to cooperatives and farmers ; to listen to them, to learn from them, so that practical solutions can be found that serve both the land and consumers.

“They are the true experts and we want to show them that they are not alone,” says Isabelle.

The Supply Chain: Cooperatives

Cooperatives, brands and retailers all shape what happens in Santerre’s farming landscape.

The French system of agricultural cooperatives, created after the Second World War, was promoted as a way for farmers to pool their resources to purchase equipment and seeds, while sharing the means of productions and sales. Today, 75 percent of French farmers are part of one of the country’s 2,600 cooperatives.

While the cooperative model helped modernise French agriculture, it now hinders the emergence of better forms of farming. The cooperative’s core business relies largely on the sale of fertiliser, pesticides and heavy machinery. But regenerative agriculture leads to those inputs steadily reducing, creating a very different business model.

The NORIAP cooperative has more than 8,500 farmers and offers all the usual cooperative services. But it understands that it needs to evolve with its farmers and integrate soil health in its work. Working with Living Soils, NORIAP is trying to navigate the difficult transition between responding to the needs of the old farming model while supporting the emergence of the new.

The Supply Chain: Brands

“We need time for practices to change. The difficulty we face is that these kinds of changes usually take much longer than an accounting year to start materialising.”

Christophe Klotz, Director of Sustainable Development and Shared Value, Nestlé France

Most major brands today vow to protect the environment and support the communities they impact. But as their supply chains have grown in length and complexity, these brands have never been further away from the land where their raw materials are produced.

Biochemist Jean-Manuel Bluet’s career in Nestlé has taken him to all parts of the supply chain; including the Philippines, where he saw how forests had been devastated by human activities. In 2009, he created the Department of Sustainable Development at Nestlé France, which he led until recently.

Jean-Manuel’s varied experience means he looks at issues holistically. He realised that most of Nestlé’s environmental impact (55 percent) came from agricultural fields, not its factories. So when Nestlé initiated its “Create Shared Value” (CSV) for nature and communities in 2010, one of Jean-Manuel’s priorities was finding ways to support farmers in Nestlé France’s supply chains.

Potato farming was an early focus. The main factory for Mousline, Nestlé’s purée brand, is in the heart of Santerre. Every day, 500 tons of potatoes arrive there from 160 local farms. Potatoes are commonly transformed into different products. And buyers' requirements, often set far from the ground, follow the industry’s needs.

Production flows might impose harvesting no matter the conditions, even when fields are too humid and tractors risk damaging the soil. The choice of potato species itself is often problematic. Buyers often impose species that work well for industrial processes but are catastrophic for the soil. Jean-Manuel and Nestlé work with farmers to overcome such tensions.

Jean-Manuel’s replacement is agronomist Christophe Klotz, who successfully led a project phasing out pesticides and preserving biodiversity in the landscapes where Nestlé produced its water brands Vittel and Perrier. His experience working with farmers and local authorities convinced him that “creating shared value means listening and co-creating with everyone in that landscape”.

Nestlé signed an ambitious climate pledge in September 2019, and aim to become carbon neutral by 2050. Both Jean-Manuel and Christophe know that to achieve this target, Nestlé must get closer to the land and its farmers.

The Supply Chain: Retailers

“What we want is to learn and establish a different relationship with our producers. To sit down and work together.”

Isabelle Hoffmann, Head of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) & Responsible Procurement, Lidl

One reason brands overlook what is happening in the field is that retailers do not value products’ origins and environmental qualities, and are primarily driven by cost.

Lidl, one of France’s leading discount retailers, is following a different path. Isabelle Hoffmann, the company’s Head of CSR and Responsible Procurement, says the apparent contradiction between price and sustainability should be worked through.

Lidl’s involvement in Living Soil in Santerre is part of the retailer’s intention to become a trusted partner to cooperatives and farmers; to listen to them, to learn from them. So that practical solutions can be found that serve both the land and consumers.

“They are the true experts, and we want to show them that they are not alone,” says Isabelle.

The NORIAP cooperative has more than 8,500 farmers and offers all the usual cooperative services. But it understands that it needs to evolve with its farmers and integrate soil health in its work. Working with Living Soils, NORIAP is trying to navigate the difficult transition between responding to the needs of the old farming model while supporting the emergence of the new.

The Supply Chain: Brands

“We need time for practices to change. The difficulty we face is that these kinds of changes usually take much longer than an accounting year to start materialising.”

Christophe Klotz, Director of Sustainable Development and Shared Value, Nestlé France

Most major brands today vow to protect the environment and support the communities they impact. But as their supply chains have grown in length and complexity, these brands have never been further away from the land where their raw materials are produced.

Biochemist Jean-Manuel Bluet’s career in Nestlé has taken him to all parts of the supply chain; including the Philippines, where he saw how forests had been devastated by human activities. In 2009, he created the Department of Sustainable Development at Nestlé France, which he led until recently.

Jean-Manuel’s varied experience means he looks at issues holistically. He realised that most of Nestlé’s environmental impact (55 percent) came from agricultural fields, not its factories. So when Nestlé initiated its “Create Shared Value” (CSV) for nature and communities in 2010, one of Jean-Manuel’s priorities was finding ways to support farmers in Nestlé France’s supply chains.

Potato farming was an early focus. The main factory for Mousline, Nestlé’s purée brand, is in the heart of Santerre. Every day, 500 tons of potatoes arrive there from 160 local farms. Potatoes are commonly transformed into different products. And buyers' requirements, often set far from the ground, follow the industry’s needs.

Production flows might impose harvesting no matter the conditions, even when fields are too humid and tractors risk damaging the soil. The choice of potato species itself is often problematic. Buyers often impose species that work well for industrial processes but are catastrophic for the soil. Jean-Manuel and Nestlé work with farmers to overcome such tensions.

Jean-Manuel’s replacement is agronomist Christophe Klotz, who successfully led a project phasing out pesticides and preserving biodiversity in the landscapes where Nestlé produced its water brands Vittel and Perrier. His experience working with farmers and local authorities convinced him that “creating shared value means listening and co-creating with everyone in that landscape”.

Nestlé signed an ambitious climate pledge in September 2019, and aim to become carbon neutral by 2050. Both Jean-Manuel and Christophe know that to achieve this target, Nestlé must get closer to the land and its farmers.

The Supply Chain: Retailers

“What we want is to learn and establish a different relationship with our producers. To sit down and work together.”

Isabelle Hoffmann, Head of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) & Responsible Procurement, Lidl

One reason brands overlook what is happening in the field is that retailers do not value products’ origins and environmental qualities, and are primarily driven by cost.

Lidl, one of France’s leading discount retailers, is following a different path. Isabelle Hoffmann, the company’s Head of CSR and Responsible Procurement, says the apparent contradiction between price and sustainability should be worked through.

Lidl’s involvement in Living Soil in Santerre is part of the retailer’s intention to become a trusted partner to cooperatives and farmers; to listen to them, to learn from them. So that practical solutions can be found that serve both the land and consumers.

“They are the true experts, and we want to show them that they are not alone,” says Isabelle.

Most major brands today vow to protect the environment and support the communities they impact. But as their supply chains have grown in length and complexity, these brands have never been further away from the land where their raw materials are produced.

The Supply Chain: Retailers

“What we want is to learn and establish a different relationship with our producers. To sit down and work together.”

Isabelle Hoffmann, Head of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) & Responsible Procurement, Lidl

One reason brands overlook what is happening in the field is that retailers do not value products’ origins and environmental qualities, and are primarily driven by cost.

Lidl, one of France’s leading discount retailers, is following a different path. Isabelle Hoffmann, the company’s Head of CSR and Responsible Procurement, says the apparent contradiction between price and sustainability should be worked through.

Lidl’s involvement in Living Soil in Santerre is part of the retailer’s intention to become a trusted partner to cooperatives and farmers; to listen to them, to learn from them. So that practical solutions can be found that serve both the land and consumers.

“They are the true experts, and we want to show them that they are not alone,” says Isabelle.

Potato farming was an early focus. The main factory for Mousline, Nestlé’s purée brand, is in the heart of Santerre. Every day, 500 tons of potatoes arrive there from 160 local farms. Potatoes are commonly transformed into different products. And buyers' requirements, often set far from the ground, follow the industry’s needs.

Production flows might impose harvesting no matter the conditions, even when fields are too humid and tractors risk damaging the soil. The choice of potato species itself is often problematic. Buyers often impose species that work well for industrial processes but are catastrophic for the soil. Jean-Manuel and Nestlé work with farmers to overcome such tensions.

Jean-Manuel’s replacement is agronomist Christophe Klotz, who successfully led a project phasing out pesticides and preserving biodiversity in the landscapes where Nestlé produced its water brands Vittel and Perrier. His experience working with farmers and local authorities convinced him that “creating shared value means listening and co-creating with everyone in that landscape”.

Nestlé signed an ambitious climate pledge in September 2019, and aim to become carbon neutral by 2050. Both Jean-Manuel and Christophe know that to achieve this target, Nestlé must get closer to the land and its farmers.

Nestlé signed an ambitious climate pledge in September 2019, and aim to become carbon neutral by 2050. Both Jean-Manuel and Christophe know that to achieve this target, Nestlé must get closer to the land and its farmers.

The Supply Chain: Retailers

“What we want is to learn and establish a different relationship with our producers. To sit down and work together.”

Isabelle Hoffmann, Head of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) & Responsible Procurement, Lidl

One reason brands overlook what is happening in the field is that retailers do not value products’ origins and environmental qualities, and are primarily driven by cost.

Lidl, one of France’s leading discount retailers, is following a different path. Isabelle Hoffmann, the company’s Head of CSR and Responsible Procurement, says the apparent contradiction between price and sustainability should be worked through.

Lidl’s involvement in Living Soil in Santerre is part of the retailer’s intention to become a trusted partner to cooperatives and farmers; to listen to them, to learn from them. So that practical solutions can be found that serve both the land and consumers.

“They are the true experts, and we want to show them that they are not alone,” says Isabelle.

Lidl’s involvement in Living Soil in Santerre is part of the retailer’s intention to become a trusted partner to cooperatives and farmers; to listen to them, to learn from them. So that practical solutions can be found that serve both the land and consumers.

“They are the true experts, and we want to show them that they are not alone,” says Isabelle.

2. The Tools

The Living Soils project aims to openly discuss and work through the tension between the needs of living systems and industry; between the pressure on price and sustainability; between the push for scale and local needs.

Knowing

Christophe Holtz knows that for a complex system to change, those involved need a shared, science-based understanding of the challenges. A lot of the scientific knowledge on soils is not accessible to farmers and others in the supply chain.. The Living Soil project is working to change this.

One of the scientists involved is Pascal Boivin, an agronomist and professor of Soil Science at the HEPIA school in Geneva, Switzerland. Pascal is one of Europe’s foremost soil biology experts and is working with Earthworm supporting Santerre’s farmers and supply chain actors to make sound, science-based choices for their land. He believes they are many ways farmers can restore life in soils. .

Pascal also believes that scientific research continues to largely be top-down, disconnected from farmers’ reality and the land. He says farmers innovate in their fields and researchers should observe them and use the lab to understand and validate the the impact of what they do.

Measuring

The research and advisory jobs of tomorrow will not provide top-down advice, they will be about working and learning alongside farmers” Annie Duparque, Head of Soils and Agro-systems, Agro-Transfert

Annie Duparque is another agronomist striving to create a more equal, fluid collaboration between farmers and scientists. Annie works at Agro Transfert, a publicly funded organisation, which aims to bridge theory and practice in the farming sector. One of her jobs is to help develop the means for farmers to make better decisions for their land. In the Living Soil project this includes developing practical tools to help them measure and predict the evolution of organic matter and carbon in their soil.

Measuring soil’s composition simply and robustly is not straightforward. In a large region like Santerre, the landscape’s characteristic and soil vary considerably, and favour different crops depending on location..

Annie works with the Earthworm Foundation developing a practical, robust sampling method at the farm level. Using a complex model to extrapolate results, the objective is to allow farmers to quantify and predict the effects of particular changes in practices, by entering different parameters in a database - including crop types and basic data in PH soil composition..

These tools will help farmers make better decisions in the ongoing regenerative agriculture experiment. (see section 2.4).

2.3 Training

Farming is one of the last human activities in contact with reality; you have no choice but to work with the soil and climate that is given to you” Matthieu Archambeaud, Co-Founder & Agronomist, Icosysteme

Matthieu Archambeaud learned and practiced regenerative agriculture in the tropics before returning to France. He sees a lack of technical support as a significant barrier to better farming practice . Two years ago, he co-founded the organisation Icosystème to combine advice on the ground with an e-learning platform, where farmers and trainers can access content tailored to their needs.

The transition to regenerative agriculture can be technically as well as economically complex. As farmers are often asked to act without guarantee that they will succeed, Matthieu believes support should be both holistic and for the long-term.

2.4 Funding

The Earthworm Foundation coordinates the Living Soil project, mobilising all involved, while staying true to the project’s ultimate goal : restoring soils. Earthworm’s legitimacy as coordinator comes through its loyalty to the cause, to the earth underneath our feet, instead of any particular party. Yet the Foundation is aware that no action will be sustainable if it threatens peoples’ financial security.

Gaëtan Jestin, Earthworm’s project manager, spends much of his time travelling across Northern France: meeting landscape and supply chain actors, and establishing new approaches together. . The Earthworm team’s first, task is earning the farmers’ trust;

technical validation is a key in this. Yet aside from technical support, farmers’ biggest concern is the financial implications of change.

They must be remunerated good practices. By storing carbon in soil, preserving biodiversity and improving water management and quality, the farmer creates value for society, which should be compensated. The Living Soil project is exploring how banks could create “green bonds” to finance the transition to regenerative agriculture and help farmers make that crucial leap.

Many questions about funding mechanisms remain: What is the right price for carbon? What is within farmers’ control? How do we take into consideration that some soils have more capacity to store carbon than others? All these questions and more require practical experimentation and open collaboration.

Knowing

Christophe Holtz knows that for a complex system to change, those involved need a shared, science-based understanding of the challenges. A lot of the scientific knowledge on soils is not accessible to farmers and others in the supply chain. The Living Soil project is working to change this.

One of the scientists involved is Pascal Boivin, an agronomist and professor of Soil Science at the HEPIA school in Geneva, Switzerland. Pascal is one of Europe’s foremost soil biology experts and is working with Earthworm supporting Santerre’s farmers and supply chain actors to make sound, science-based choices for their land. He believes there are many ways farmers can restore life in soils.

Pascal also believes that scientific research continues to largely be top-down, disconnected from farmers’ reality and the land. He says farmers innovate in their fields and researchers should observe them and use the lab to understand and validate the impact of what they do.

Measuring

The research and advisory jobs of tomorrow will not provide top-down advice, they will be about working and learning alongside farmers.

Annie Duparque, Head of Soils and Agro-systems, Agro-Transfert

Annie Duparque is another agronomist striving to create a more equal, fluid collaboration between farmers and scientists. Annie works at Agro Transfert, a publicly funded organisation that aims to bridge theory and practice in the farming sector. One of her jobs is to help develop the means for farmers to make better decisions for their land. In the Living Soil project, this includes developing practical tools to help them measure and predict the evolution of organic matter and carbon in their soil.

Measuring soil’s composition simply and robustly is not straightforward. In a large region like Santerre, the landscape’s characteristics and soil vary considerably; and favour different crops depending on location.

Annie works with Earthworm Foundation developing a practical, robust sampling method at the farm level. Using a complex model to extrapolate results, the objective is to allow farmers to quantify and predict the effects of particular changes in practices, by entering different parameters in a database – including crop types and basic data on soil PH composition.

These tools will help farmers make better decisions in the ongoing regenerative agriculture experiment.

Training

Farming is one of the last human activities in contact with reality; you have no choice but to work with the soil and climate that is given to you.

Matthieu Archambeaud, Co-Founder & Agronomist, Icosysteme

Matthieu Archambeaud learned and practiced regenerative agriculture in the tropics before returning to France. He sees a lack of technical support as a significant barrier to better farming practice . Two years ago, he co-founded the organisation Icosystème to combine advice on the ground with an e-learning platform, where farmers and trainers can access content tailored to their needs.

The transition to regenerative agriculture can be technically as well as economically complex. As farmers are often asked to act without guarantee that they will succeed, Matthieu believes support should be both holistic and for the long-term.

2.4 Funding

The Earthworm Foundation coordinates the Living Soil project, mobilising all involved, while staying true to the project’s ultimate goal : restoring soils. Earthworm’s legitimacy as coordinator comes through its loyalty to the cause, to the earth underneath our feet, instead of any particular party. Yet the Foundation is aware that no action will be sustainable if it threatens peoples’ financial security.

Gaëtan Jestin, Earthworm’s project manager, spends much of his time travelling across Northern France: meeting landscape and supply chain actors, and establishing new approaches together. . The Earthworm team’s first, task is earning the farmers’ trust;

technical validation is a key in this. Yet aside from technical support, farmers’ biggest concern is the financial implications of change.

They must be remunerated good practices. By storing carbon in soil, preserving biodiversity and improving water management and quality, the farmer creates value for society, which should be compensated. The Living Soil project is exploring how banks could create “green bonds” to finance the transition to regenerative agriculture and help farmers make that crucial leap.

Many questions about funding mechanisms remain: What is the right price for carbon? What is within farmers’ control? How do we take into consideration that some soils have more capacity to store carbon than others? All these questions and more require practical experimentation and open collaboration.

Conclusion

The Living Soils project is a story about changing a system and the tools needed to so in the Santerre region and beyond. But perhaps most importantly, this project is a story of the individuals enabling this change:. Other than their passion for nature and farming, those featured here share one quality: humility. No one claims to have the answer, to know better. The word “humility” comes from the word “humus”, i.e. organic matter. Perhaps this is the other fertile ground we need.

Measuring soil’s composition simply and robustly is not straightforward. In a large region like Santerre, the landscape’s characteristics and soil vary considerably; and favour different crops depending on location.

Annie works with Earthworm Foundation developing a practical, robust sampling method at the farm level. Using a complex model to extrapolate results, the objective is to allow farmers to quantify and predict the effects of particular changes in practices, by entering different parameters in a database – including crop types and basic data on soil PH composition.

These tools will help farmers make better decisions in the ongoing regenerative agriculture experiment.

Training

Farming is one of the last human activities in contact with reality; you have no choice but to work with the soil and climate that is given to you.

Matthieu Archambeaud, Co-Founder & Agronomist, Icosysteme

Matthieu Archambeaud learned and practiced regenerative agriculture in the tropics before returning to France. He sees a lack of technical support as a significant barrier to better farming practice . Two years ago, he co-founded the organisation Icosystème to combine advice on the ground with an e-learning platform, where farmers and trainers can access content tailored to their needs.

The transition to regenerative agriculture can be technically as well as economically complex. As farmers are often asked to act without guarantee that they will succeed, Matthieu believes support should be both holistic and for the long-term.

Matthieu Archambeaud learned and practiced regenerative agriculture in the tropics before returning to France. He sees the lack of technical support as a significant barrier to better farming practices.

Two years ago, he co-founded Icosystème to combine advice on the ground with an e-learning platform, where farmers and trainers can access content tailored to their needs.

The transition to regenerative agriculture can be technically, as well as economically, complex, he says. As farmers are often asked to act without guarantee that they will succeed, Matthieu believes support should be both holistic and long-term.

Funding

The Earthworm Foundation coordinates the Living Soil project, mobilising all involved, while staying true to the project’s ultimate goal : restoring soils. Earthworm’s legitimacy as coordinator comes through its loyalty to the cause, to the earth underneath our feet, instead of any particular party. Yet the Foundation is aware that no action will be sustainable if it threatens peoples’ financial security.

Gaëtan Jestin, Earthworm’s project manager, spends much of his time travelling across Northern France: meeting landscape and supply chain actors, and establishing new approaches together. . The Earthworm team’s first, task is earning the farmers’ trust;

technical validation is a key in this. Yet aside from technical support, farmers’ biggest concern is the financial implications of change.

They must be remunerated good practices. By storing carbon in soil, preserving biodiversity and improving water management and quality, the farmer creates value for society, which should be compensated. The Living Soil project is exploring how banks could create “green bonds” to finance the transition to regenerative agriculture and help farmers make that crucial leap.

Many questions about funding mechanisms remain: What is the right price for carbon? What is within farmers’ control? How do we take into consideration that some soils have more capacity to store carbon than others? All these questions and more require practical experimentation and open collaboration.

Conclusion

The Living Soils project is a story about changing a system and the tools needed to so in the Santerre region and beyond. But perhaps most importantly, this project is a story of the individuals enabling this change:. Other than their passion for nature and farming, those featured here share one quality: humility. No one claims to have the answer, to know better. The word “humility” comes from the word “humus”, i.e. organic matter. Perhaps this is the other fertile ground we need.

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