Marcin raises pasture-fed beef cattle on a family farm with his father and brother in the west of Poland. He is passionate to see agroforestry spread throughout Poland. He was one of the initial 60 representatives of the BOND Project.
My wife, Jana, and I have farmed sheep and made cheese for many years. When we lost our tenancy contract, we decided to change to a CSA box scheme for salad and root vegetables, using horses for cultivating. At the moment we have 20 members but we need 100 to be economically viable. In February 2019, following a BOND Project training in Cordoba, Spain, I organised a meeting in the Czech Republic for anyone involved or interested in modern horse-powered farming. I was hoping we may get 25, but we ended up with 63!
We opened our farm for a field day, giving everybody an opportunity to put their hand on a horse-drawn plough. We had a formal meeting sharing knowledge and experience of ploughing, but the main outcome was people making connections between themselves. In May 2019 we organised a meeting in a research centre in Prague to consider how farming with horses benefits soil health.
Most horse-powered farmers are lonely tough guys from the mountains. They are used to competing against each other. I kept trying to stress how important collaboration is – working with rather than against each other. Some people were open, but others won’t change their mindset after just a few meetings.
We’ve not created a formal group yet. I’ve tried to foster mentoring relationships and taught them about CSA models. AMPI originally focused on consumers and the environment but since our involvement with BOND, they do a lot more around farming. They are leading the CSA network in the Czech Republic and I’m working with them to start a teaching farm for new entrants.