24th February 2018 Paul Andrews
Bayer's ForwardFarming programme launches in North America to foster dialogue, understanding about how our food can be grown in harmony with the environment
Fourth-generation Maryland farmer Trey Hill measures the success of his operation not just by how many bushels of corn, soybeans and wheat it produces, but by how effectively it helps the waters of the Chesapeake Bay that surround its fields. Hill, who farms some of the same hardworking soil whose harvests fed Americans before the Revolutionary War, judges its value not just in yield, but by the earth worms that flourish in it year round and the organic matter that helps improve water filtration and reduce erosion.
These are two of many reasons Hill's operation, Harborview Farms, is launching today as the latest Bayer ForwardFarm – the first in North America – and why Hill's family operation serves as a prime example of today's agriculture.
"Everything we do at Harborview Farms has to pass this test," said Hill, 42, who runs the operation with his father, Herman Hill, Jr.; mother, Christy; wife, Cheryl; and a small team of great employees. "I have to be able to explain it to my young children, simply and with integrity. That includes the inputs we use, how and why we use them, our treatment of wildlife and the Bay, and the amount of energy we use doing it all. If I can't do that, then it's a signal I have to re-think our practices."
Harborview joins Bayer's global ForwardFarming network, an elite group of 12 innovative, independent farms representative of their unique environments across Europe, Latin America and now, North America. Ranging in production from corn and sunflowers in France, to potatoes in Belgium and the Netherlands, to cereals and oilseed rape in Germany, to wine grapes in Italy, and corn and soybeans in Brazil and Argentina, these operations have one important thing in common: a commitment to sustainable, holistic and scalable practices that are good for them and for their environments.
"One of the primary goals of ForwardFarming is to foster dialogue and knowledge exchange on local farms around the world, which we achieve by welcoming people to the farms to learn about today's agriculture and some of the remarkable men and women engaged in it," said Jim Blome, President and CEO of Crop Science North America, a Division of Bayer. "Facing the challenge of feeding more people with ever-more precious natural resources, it's imperative that we encourage understanding about the advanced technology and sustainable farming practices that will be a big part of the solution," Blome said.
Hill and his team will welcome guests today to his operation, which is two hours from Washington, D.C., where they will learn about Harborview's innovative management practices, including precision, GPS-guided technology that manages inputs; extensive cover cropping that nourishes the soil and protects nearby waterways; solar panels that power much of the operation; integrated pest management that protects crops sustainably; wildlife habitats that protect the wildlife that call the area home, and much more. Subsequent visits will give additional stakeholders, media and others the opportunity to see innovative agriculture close up. Over time, Bayer will add more operations to the ForwardFarming program in additional regions across the United States and the world to expand the knowledge platform further.
"Bayer ForwardFarms are entrepreneurial businesses owned and operated by independent farmers, not demonstration farms managed by Bayer," Blome said. "These farms work with us to foster understanding about today's sustainable agriculture practices, not to promote any company, because they share Bayer's belief that modern agriculture goes hand-in-hand with environmental and social responsibility."