Five-hundred years of knowledge passed on from father to son by his ancestors surely makes Marcus Holtkötter an expert. Marcus operates 145 hectares of land in Munsterland, north-west Germany, growing wheat, winter barley and corn.
“I have inherited our business and the soil from my parents and the generations before them, and I hope that I can pass it on to one of my three children to continue it,” he said. “Like many farmers, that´s why I’m intent on keeping our soil, the ground and the plants nutritious and healthy.”
But in recent years, he has felt threatened because of a lack of access to the products he needs to maintain the health of his farm.
Certain pesticides are under threat because of EU regulation.
“The farm has been in my family for hundreds of years. My family has always had to defend the crops.. I use pesticides because we have to. And I use them only when I have to.”
He’s frustrated about the ideology that he says has entered into decision making about pesticides. “Decisions about agriculture inputs should be made on science, not on what politicians think or feel,” he said. “The discussions held around crop protection lack objectivity.”
Marcus travelled to Brussels twice in 2016 to meet with MEPs and discuss the importance of informed decision making and the realities of agriculture on farms today.
“It’s not all about profit margin or pricing. Some people say that there will be a higher cost for, say, potatoes, if we didn’t have pesticides. Yes, that’s true, because there will be fewer potatoes coming out of the same parcel of land. But I think the problem and the risk is more drastic than the price of a potato.
“In my opinion it’s not a matter of cost to the consumer. The question will become: ‘do potatoes exist?’ Without pesticides we simply won’t have potatoes.”
Marcus intends to continue his efforts to inform German and EU lawmakers as well as the general public about farming. He’s active on social media and committed to education. He’s even created a platform called “Ask the Farmer” where he fields questions from external audiences.
“As farmer, I see myself as a protector of the environment, a protector of plants, and I want to show the consumer what we do, and explain how farming works, and where food comes from.”
Follow Marcus on Twitter: @BauerHolti