by Roger Engelberts

Stuck in the Middle

I love farmers. The province of Brabant has about 10,000 farmers. These farmers keep around 5,000 pigs, 25,000 chickens and 750,000 cattle/bovine animals. These numbers are intense. Operating on this scale requires innovation.  Societal pressure is increasing, there is a cry for structural changes. Technically, our food system is already bankrupt in many ways.

In my opinion, food is not there to fill us up but to nourish us. It shouldn’t be cheaper and cheaper – that’s just impossible. ‘’Let food be thy medicine.’’ As a citizen, people cry out loud and react from their hearts, but as a consumer people are driven by finances and make rather unsustainable choices. Operational excellence and reducing costs by scaling up don’t work in Holland, our land, our wages, our production costs – everything is just too expensive. We’ll go down the drain this way.

So what can be done to create necessary changes in our food system? I think everything starts with the ability and courage to see the great issues of our time as challenges. Challenges that force us to farm, to work and to live in a different way. Issues like food waste, shrink of rural areas, urbanization and our hunger for experiencing and sustainability can help us to reach the creativity and innovativeness in ourselves and in our system we need – as long as we have the guts to embrace and approach these challenges with colorfulness and diversity.

But what about farmers? Do they dare to change perspective? I think farmers are often stuck in the middle, addicted to the same old business model. Farmers are stuck in what is called ˶the commodity trap”. Trapped in a system with products that are not unique in any way. A system in which one can only call attention to oneself when using different prices or business relations.

Only a small group of leaders is breaking out from the pack. These pioneers started to look at value instead of cost price. But the pack is slow and stubborn. Following old routines.

The farming industry has been guided by leftbrained people forever. And today, we are stuck with our rules and stubborn structures. To really make change, we need to bring in a different energy. We need right brained people. People with a fresh visual and visionary way of looking at things, men and women who have an infectious enthusiasm and a natural optimism to spice things up and create new possibilities.

I see it as my personal challenge to motivate the large group of farmers that is in between these mindsets. How to create a stimulating inspiring forefront that can motivate others to discover new and different ways? I take the audience with me in a compass on value. Money flows where the value goes. And I thereby use the law of preservation creativity.

Farmers are loveable by nature. It is impossible not to love farmers. Should we love animals more and keep less of them? Once a year you need a doctor, every day you need a farmer to keep you healthy. Let’s love and help farmers. 

Roger Engelberts Chief Emotions Officer Imagro [New perspectives for agri food and rural area]
Professor co-creative entrepreneurship HAS university of applied science 2013-2019