Stewarding the Soil: An Ontario Farmer’s Quest for Regenerative Agricultural Practices
(6 pages of text)
Blake Vince is a fifth-generation farmer who adheres to seemingly unconventional farming techniques. Most farmers in southwestern Ontario use conventional industrial farming methods such as tilling their fields, relying on pesticides and fertilizers, and monocropping (i.e., planting the same crops on the same plot of land year after year). Vince, however, embraces more regenerative agricultural practices (such as no-till farming, wherein the top layer of soil is left undisturbed), planting cover crops, and reducing his application of chemical inputs. He uses a variety of cover crops between seasons of soybean crops to help enhance soil quality. This method of farming has been demonstrated to be more ecologically aligned, sustainable, and less costly in the long run, both economically and environmentally. However, Vince estimates that the savings come at the expense of crop yields during the first four to five years. Debates over farming practices (e.g., till versus no-till) were strong in Ontario. Farmers cared passionately about their land, and they often held strong opinions of their preferred approach, passed down through generations. Vince faces the challenge of spreading the word about regenerative agricultural practices and convincing farmers of the importance of operating as long-term stewards to preserve the land for future generations. Vince wondered whether the arguments for regenerative agricultural practices would be strong enough to persuade (a) farmers to shift their practices, (b) consumers to shift their purchasing, and (c) political leaders to introduce policies to accelerate its adoption.
This case has been designed for use in undergraduate- or graduate-level courses on strategy, sustainability, or entrepreneurship. After working through the case, students with be able to do the following:
- Understand the often invisible, yet critical resource, in the earth’s ecology: soil.
- Apply systems thinking to understand the relationship between ecological systems and economic returns.
- Understand the dynamics of more immediate short-term returns over higher long-term returns.
- Understand how to persuade others about issues that are often seen as ideological (e.g. climate change).
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting
Canada, Small, 2018
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