How food production from the countryside helps everyone is described this time by Jochen Fritz in our series
Our way of eating causes 40 percent of the global climate change. This has to change, and fast! We need a radical change in food and agriculture. As one of the world’s trendiest cities, Berlin must play a pioneering role. And it must do so by radically re-localizing our food supply.
It should be crystal clear to all of us: we can’t go on eating the way we do now. Fatty “junk food” or 1.5 liter cola bottles with cheap sugar for 30 cents from the supermarket endanger the health of our children. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns: overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions. In addition, the daily piece of pork for 2.50 euros in the refrigerated counter of discounters promotes global warming.
Berlin needs many new farmers to supply us with fresh vegetables, fruit, milk, cereals, pulses, seeds and meat produced in an appropriate manner. And for that, Berlin also needs Brandenburg. But more and more small farms are having to give up; they are particularly hard hit by the demise of farms. Corona was not the first to show how important its regional products are for our security of supply.
In the post-reunification period, the region’s agriculture was geared exclusively to the world market. Unfortunately, this destroyed existing processing structures. For example, before the fall of the Wall, a town like Nauen in Havelland had a slaughterhouse, a dairy, a mill and a soap factory that recycled waste. And today? Nothing.
Regional processing sites must be rebuilt as quickly as possible. This is the only way we can process raw agricultural products from the region, whether organic or conventional. This is necessary if we want to supply Berlin with regional products. And of course – as is often overlooked in Berlin – the 2.5 million people of Brandenburg also need food from the region.
The development of regional value chains not only helps farmers to achieve better prices and to supply a secure market. Producing food locally also revitalizes rural areas and creates value instead of driving it out of the region in a grain truck.
Of course, this costs money first of all. But we should be clear about this: We are at a turning point. And there is no doubt that we urgently need this investment in our future. Otherwise, in 20 years there will hardly be any farmers left to supply us. Then the land will be in the hands of large corporations.
That’s why we should make it our task now to strengthen regional agriculture. Get involved yourself, for example, support the networking of producers and consumers in projects such as Solidarity Farming (SoLaWi) or Marktschwärmerei. Have vegetable boxes delivered to you or buy your milk from a regional dairy. The more direct the contact between producers and consumers* is, the better.
Brandenburg’s agriculture needs even more support to survive in the long term. Initiatives such as the Bio-Boden-Genossenschaft, Kulturland e.G. and Regionalwert AG already provide this support. They support small farms so that they can keep their land, build value chains and further develop their farms. Numerous new initiatives for more organic farming, agroforestry systems, regenerative agriculture and sustainable, species-appropriate animal husbandry are encouraging.
But policymakers must also act and finally enact legislation to prevent land from being bought up by non-farming investors and to secure fair land prices. The daily hard work of farmers needs more appreciation and recognition. Because only together with them we create the nourishing turn in Berlin.
Since the beginning of the Corona crisis, Berliners have been cooking more themselves again. The appreciation of food has increased. In the future, more Berlin canteens should follow this example and cook fresh food with products from the surrounding area. Canteens must be a place for enjoyment and communication, not just for calorie intake. Good food must no longer be a luxury product. Ensuring that everyone can afford to eat healthily is also a government task and cannot be left to corporations like Aldi or Lidl alone. This would also save immense health costs, slow down climate change and prevent the death of farms. And then eating will be fun again.
Jochen Fritz, a graduate agricultural engineer, is a member of the board of directors of Regionalwert AG Berlin-Brandenburg. It supports organic farming in Brandenburg and Berlin with citizen shares. As a sideline, he is a farmer on the Werder organic farm, where he keeps water buffalo, grazing chickens and sheep.