Most traditional farmers are familiar with things like cover crops, no-till, and other beneficial environmental practices. Getting them to do this involves more than just making physical changes – it may require a willingness to be different from their peers.
Kent Solberg is a farmer and specialist in breeding and grazing with the Minnesota Sustainable Agriculture Association. He says there is a major shift taking place from chemical-based practices to organic methods. But the traditional producer wants to maintain his perception social status in the community.
“Most of the farmers I work with consider the successful farmer to have four brand new painted green tractors sitting in the yard, four Peterbilt semi-trailers and four Lexion harvesters and the big brick house,” says Solberg. “They can be exploited and make a lot less money at the end of the year, but that status is much more important.”
He says producer groups working together to shift to regenerative agriculture can help the individual farmer not feel like his social position is at stake.
“And you get this group of growers on a field day, at a workshop, at a conference, it attracts their neighbors. They’re curious. The low commodity prices and seeing people selling make producers think of what else I can do, because what I do is not cash flow, ”he says.“ But when they can see other people in their region do that, all of a sudden they don’t have to feel eccentric anymore. ”