© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

'Farmers have to want to learn'

Luisa Osborne
Quorum Sense
Farmers in a phaecelia field  Quorum Sense (Supplied)

Environmental organisation calls for $1 billion investment in regenerative agriculture, but farmers are wary of a standardisation.

On May 14, in anticipation of the government's Covid-19 relief budget, Greenpeace called $1 billion to be put towards an accelerated shift to regenerative agriculture. 

Greenpeace sustainable agriculture campaigner Genevieve Toop said the country had "an opportunity to build a more resilient primary production sector".

Regenerative agriculture would help "weather the oncoming environmental and market storms of the 21st century".

But farmers are not exactly thrilled with Greenpeace's approach.

Jono Frew co-founded Quorum Sense, a network of farmers sharing practical knowledge about regenerative farm systems in New Zealand.

For Frew, the standardised approach to regenerative agriculture such targeted funding woud bring, equated to a return to the paradigm farmers were trying to shift away from.

Farmers did not need more funding or to be forced into a particular way of farming, as Greenpeace seemed to be lobbying for.

"Farmers have to want to learn," Frew said.

He said there was no one way of applying the ecological principles under the umbrella of regenerative agriculture.

"It is about understanding the impacts of each of the decisions you make."

Frew wanted farmers empowered, not to be told how to farm.

Farmers, he said, were becoming increasingly disillusioned with traditional farming methods, which were often costly and reliant on pesticides.

Fellow Quorum Sense co-founder Nigel Greenwood said funding should go into promoting and documenting "on-farm, grassroots experiments and trials that aren't promoting products, egos and greed".

He said Quorum Sense believed in promoting "farmer-to-farmer learning, sharing and mental health support".

Regenerative agriculture and organic agriculture have often been confused.

Organic farming is a standardised approach, whereas regenerative involves an ecological approach with a focus on soil biology and plant physiology.

About $19 million was allocated to primary sector employment in the 2020 Budget.