From June 18th to June 24th a study tour of Germany and the Netherlands exploring organic farming and sustainable agriculture in Europe took place, which was supported by the DCZ. A delegation from Liaoyuan where the “Dongliao Modern Ecological Agriculture Demonstration Area” is being planned had the opportunity to collect inspiration from the European organic farming sector to implement in their model region. In addition, representatives from FECC and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Engineering – both organisations involved in the planning of the model region – joined the study trip. Seven farm and cooperative managers from Wenzhou, currently enrolled in a part time farm management and technology course at Wenzhou Vocational Training College completed the group. The trip was organised by IAK Agrar Consulting, a German agricultural consulting business based in Leipzig, Germany.
The tour set off from Frankfurt with a meeting at DLG (German Agricultural Society). The main destination was the first ever national Organic Field Days in Frankenhausen near Kassel – where the group was able to see first-hand the newest innovations in organic farming in Germany as well as meeting key organisations in the organic sector. After the visit to the field days the group followed an invitation by K + S and the German Asia-Pacific Business Association to a round table discussion on sustainable agriculture in Kassel. Representatives from DLG and Lemken also attended.
The group outside DLG’s headquarters in Frankfurt with DLG’s Frederik Tipp – Photo: IAK Leipzig
The trip would obviously not have been complete without farm visits. The renowned biodynamic farm Dottenfelder Hof to the north of Frankfurt showcased successful organic farming in accordance with the strict standards of Demeter (one of Germany’s three main organic farming associations) combined with direct marketing, communal structures, teaching, research and breeding of plant varieties. Stautenhof near the Dutch border, an organic farm applying the standards of the other two large organic associations (Bioland and Naturland), boasts its own butchery and bakery and impressed the visitors with its mobile henhouses.
Across the border Paddestoelenrijk an organic speciality mushroom farm and the dairy farm of René Cruijsen, head of Eko Holland – an organic dairy cooperative – completed the overview of organic farming in Europe. Eko Holland actually exports UHT milk to China and was expecting a visit from Chinese organic inspectors the following week. Both Dutch farms are certified by Control Union a Dutch certification body also active in China who accompanied the delegation throughout the two visits.
The participants were impressed with the dedication and professionality of organic farmers in Germany and the Netherlands. Questions that were raised more than once and that will need further investigation are the modes in which the state supports the evolution of the organic sector in EU member states and how these experiences can be transferred to Chinese realities. Also the questions of soil fertility and pest control in organic farming were of particular interest to the Chinese visitors.