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N° 19 – No farmer, no future

26/02/2024

Salzkotten, 14th February
I learned from an early age what it means to have a farm. As a farmer, I can’t just close my laptop and call it a day. As a farmer, I have to get up at three in the morning if the animals aren’t doing well, and I don’t get that much sleep during the harvest anyway. As a farmer’s child, I never went on holiday with my family.

We have a farm with 100 sows, 500 pigs and a bit of arable farming: rapeseed, wheat, and barley for the animals. I grew up with it but only became interested in working in the barn much later on. It was only after I finished school that I decided I wanted to become a farmer. I didn’t want an office job.

Farming runs in the family. My dad is a farmer. My grandpa still works on the farm from time to time. My brother is currently writing his bachelor’s thesis in agricultural sciences and also works on the farm. So, the farm is pretty male-dominated.

I study agricultural sciences too, but whenever I have time I also help out, castrating piglets, washing the barn, or tilling the field for example. Wherever I’m needed, whatever’s on the agenda. I discuss the farm a lot with my dad, he asks what my brother and I think.

For example, there was a new regulation in 2021 whereby pigs have to have more space. Sows must have five square meters. So, our barn now has to have an outside pen, which is very expensive and time-consuming to build. My dad and I discussed whether to expand the barn or reduce the number of sows.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve also been doing something else for the farm: going to the farmers’ demonstrations in my region and in Berlin with my dad. My first demonstration was at the beginning of January in Paderborn. We set off from the farm at eight o’clock with two tractors. Then we drove through the neighboring villages and picked up friends. We drove in a convoy to the meeting point at the stadium.

I thought the tractors wouldn’t stop. More and more people came to protest on their tractors. Everyone who had time took part. Seeing all these people made me feel proud. There was a big sense of unity among us.

With 1000 participants, we then made a round trip along the B1, the autobahn. The tractors blocked the road for quite a while and people on the sidelines gave us a thumbs up. It gave me the feeling that I was doing something important.

In the reports on the protests, a lot has been written about the right-wingers using the demonstrations for their purposes. I would like to distance myself from this. I think it’s stupid and perhaps also unfair that they are distracting from our demands in this way. The protest is about an entire profession and our concerns, and not about removing the government.

Above all, I was protesting for more planning security. New rules are constantly being introduced. You can’t keep up with them. We are left alone with the implementation, and the process is often very bureaucratic.

Predictability is particularly important for me as a young farmer. If we invest a lot of money in converting the barn now, and in three years the measures are outdated again, then it’s no longer worthwhile for us. Nobody can afford to constantly rebuild the farm! If I have to shut down the farm in ten years time because it’s no longer profitable, then there’s no point studying it.

German farmers already demonstrated back in 2019 – against stricter fertilizer requirements at that time. I have the feeling that nothing has really changed. The anger from back then is still present. It would be good if someone who has animals in their barn had a say.

The animals on our farm are very close to my heart. Who doesn’t dream of turning their passion into a career? Of course, the job is exhausting, but when I look out at the field and see the grasses growing that I planted myself, it gives me a very special feeling. I want to do this job my whole life. I want to have a future as a farmer. But I’m not sure what this future will look like.

Vivienne

Vivienne grew up on her family farm in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. She is now studying agricultural sciences to become a farmer like her grandfather, father, and brother. But she worries about the future for German farmers.

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