Leuven, 19 November 2019. The KU Leuven Newbie team and Groene Kring organized together a field day on new business models in farming. This event frames within an exchange program between Acades and Groene Kring, both young farmers organisations in respectively Malawi and Flanders. The topic of this exchange program was new business models in farming. For sure, this was a great opportunity for the Belgian Newbie team to create impact.
The day started off with a visit to the CSA farm De Plek. Six years ago, Liesbeth and Stefan started this farm, without any educational background in farming. They started on a small plot, and slowly introduced new activities such as cooking for clients in their yurt, green care and workshops for children. Together with our three guests from Malawi and Lieke – the representative of Groene Kring – we visited the vegetable garden and the two greenhouses. Working on a very small plot, the farmers don’t use tractors though rely on mechanic tools that could be very valuable to use in Malawi as well.
We all enjoyed a lovely dinner in the yurt, discussed on the business model of the farm and then drove back to the campus in Heverlee.
In the afternoon, Vera Winthagen facilitated a workshop on the future of farming. Vera Winthagen is Policy Analyst at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The methodology developed by the JRC proofs to be a valuable tool both in the European context and in the context of farmers in Malawi.
A final event was the panel debate on new business model, in the agricultural institute of Leuven University. First, Witse Vellema gave an overview of the insight from his PhD research at the University of Ghent. The presentation is available here. Afterwards, Tessa Avermaete moderated the panel debate with four experts: Jannes Maes (president CEJA), Wytse Vellema, Christel Covens (farmer and farm advisor at SBB) and Hastings Nhlane (ACADES, president of the young farmer organisation in Malawi).
In short, we discovered that both in Flanders and Malawi, young farmers face big challenges and need to reflect continuously on their business model. There is a diversity of opportunities, though choices by individual farmers should be rational. As a key message, all experts agreed that being adaptable – able to change – is crucial. The insight of Charles Darwin hold truth for our young farmers: “According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”