A conversation with Hervé Dupied Bokx of 21-22, who currently works on a farm in France and at a university for farmers and, most importantly, on changing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). We talk about policies, the CAP, which spends most of the European budget on a not very regenerative way of farming, and more.
Hervé worked for Patagonia and spent 5 years in Amsterdam working in agriculture and energy.
LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION ON:
What is needed to change one of the largest farming subsidy schemes in the world? What pathways and successful examples do we have of European policy change? This is a much more optimistic and practical interview than you might imagine. It is about how to gather the pioneers of the regenerative and agroecology movement who, against all odds and subsidies, build very successful food and agriculture companies. How do we empower them to replicate their success and how do we create a strong enough voice in Brussels to change the rules of the game?
LEGISLATION HAS TO CHANGE ASAP BUT IT IS VERY DIFFICULT
According to Hervé, we’re creating a forest of wind turbines, in the middle of our villages. That way you start accumulating social problems, you see that those villages are kind of dead, socially dead. And this hasn’t been driven by farmers, but it’s been imposed by the system on those farmers since the Second World War. Now we are just running out of time in front of all the social and environmental crises and we need to tackle every level.
“In my land, where I come from, the social and economical value is just drying out, and is just pumped by huge corporations that hold most of the added value, they extracted from that land and they bring it to their huge company, and you never see it back into our land, and our regions.” – Hervé Dupied
“You just take your car, and you go through the landscape, and well, that landscape is fundamentally wrong […] So you only see those arable farming fields, you don’t see a tree anymore over dozens and dozens of kilometres. And then you see those big wind turbines in the middle of those fields. Because that agricultural system does not make sense anymore […] they received a lot of subsidies to build those gigantic wind turbines”. – Hervé Dupied
“Because I worked at Patagonia, I was also very much aware of all the indicators around biodiversity, climate change, and the fact that our water cycles are totally disrupted”. – Hervé Dupied
WE HAVE TO PRESENT A CREDIBLE ALTERNATIVE IN BRUSSELS, WASHINGTON, BEIJING, NEW DELHI, ETC.
These communities presented themselves as competitors in the European market and demanded their share from the policies, which are basically built mostly for giants. They understand that they have a role to play, especially in research and development, and they want to rebalance where the money goes. It’s about fighting the natural tendency of capitalism to always focus on money and therefore power.
“We do represent a competitor in the European market. Let’s not forget that European Union is based on the free market. European Union always talks about consumers, never really about citizens. So, once you do represent a concrete and solid competitor on the European market, you are entitled to have a place on the market, you are entitled to be recognized by the market and by European Union.” – Hervé Dupied
“They see a complementary system represented by citizens, gathering, making something solid, with good business models, then the political, they’re going to say, ‘Hey, now the Giants, you’re going to work with those citizens that have well structured themselves, that have built more added value in their territories, that are not so concentrated as you are’. And so, you balance the effects of capitalism, because if you let capitalism go by itself, it will always focus money on one part of the system.” – Hervé Dupied
RESCOOP, A HEAVILY DECENTRALIZED MODEL
Hervé tells us about one entity that is tackling every level, which is within the energy community. There is now in Europe a federation called Rescoop (Renewable Energy Cooperative). These are groups of citizens across Europe, which could be 100s or 1000s, who have decided to produce their own energy, and they do that by creating renewable energy communities. They build and own wind turbines, solar parks, and local energy sources. It is a heavily decentralized system, which is spread out all across Europe, and represents such a powerful player in the market. Those 1000s of communities decided that they needed to federate.
“We service more than a million citizens for their daily energy. So you see that the perfect alliance of a heavily decentralized model, which is not focusing money, and therefore not focusing power, but it’s distributing money and power within the territories, and at the same time they are able to represent themselves at a European level. This is exactly the model we need for agriculture.” – Hervé Dupied
“They federated themselves at an European level, they are well identifiable, they have created a storytelling, ‘we are renewable energy communities, we produce local, social, economical, environmental services, but we want to be recognized that by the European Union’, so they created that Federation.” – Hervé Dupied
“And they are spread out all over our European territories. And that’s very healthy because it brings back people, it brings back jobs. And of course, it brings back social links within our communities.” – Hervé Dupied
WE CAN GET THERE BY INVESTING IN THE PIONEERING REGEN FARMERS WHO HAVE MADE THEIR FARMS AND BUSINESSES SUCCESSFUL
The base of Hervé’s work together with the Université Domaine du Possible, which is a university and a farm, is around creating an embryo of what we want to be as European network, to federate all those pioneers, who have made incredible achievements and have put everything at stake to go against the current tide, within an agricultural model where the CAP is pushing you towards one model.
“We want to federate those pioneers across Europe, we want to show that whatever the number, it’s not important, we want to show that it’s possible. And once we have that gathering, we’ve done it in France, and we keep on doing it, we want to create a rulebook, quite a simple one”. – Hervé Dupied
“In France, 200 hectares, they have about 10 enterprises on the farm, they have guest houses, they have livestock, they have chickens, they have a market garden, they have about 50 hectares of crops that are feeding, of course, all the livestock they have on the farm. It’s an amazing model, any output is an input for the other enterprises, and it really works. They have 12 full-time employees on the farm, they have a shop on the farm where they sell more than three-quarters of everything they produce, meats, crops, cereals” – Hervé Dupied
WE CAN LEARN FROM THE SUCCESSFUL POLICY CHANGES THE RENEWABLE ENERGY COOPERATIVE MOVEMENT HAS ESTABLISHED
The Renewable energy cooperative positioned themselves as a complementary model and achieved something that doesn’t exist yet in agriculture. They say, ‘we produce green energy, we service right now about a million citizens across Europe, we are decentralized, we are federated, we are well-represented at a European level, give us share of the market, give us policies that allow us to thrive’.
“Tomorrow a farm that is able to base everything organic, and go beyond organic into a regenerative organic way, and that is able to say, ‘I am a profitable company that employs a couple of people or 10/15 people, and I’m processing, and I’m selling at least 50%, and I’m servicing couple of 1000s of customers. And imagine that type of farm times 200,000 or even 500,000 and playing the same rulebook and being federated at the European level. Suddenly you represent a force that is credible, that I can rely on because it’s trustworthy, it’s efficient, it’s servicing…” – Hervé Dupied
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED:
Koen and Hervé also talked about:
- Eating vs. heating;
- Farms running on their own inputs;
- Regenerative movement, agroecology movement and the too many labels;
- What would Hervé do if he had a magic wand.
- EU Common Agricultural Policy
- The Unfair Advantage for Independent Ecological Farmers
- Université Domaine Du Possible
- Not your standard business – Pete Russell article on prices of local food
- The Ferme bio de They, the farm Hervé uses as a model
- Annette Mueller on managing over 2000 hectares biodynamically and selling everything directly to the end consumer for more than 40 years
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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.