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Fostering learning networks by knowledge exchange between DiverIMPACTS case studies

One goal of DiverIMPACTS is to foster learning networks across national borders in Europe. An exchange visit, in which the Swedish case study 19 met the English case study 15, is an example of how that can be achieved.

Last February a group from Sweden went on a three-day trip to the UK, visiting Hodmedods in East Anglia. Most of the participants in the Swedish group were farmers, processors and chefs connected to Nordisk Ravara, which is a Swedish company that shares many ideals with Hodmedods: both are working to promote growing and consuming local pulses and heritage varieties. This was a perfect opportunity for in-depth sharing about both growing techniques and other aspects of running a business with these goals. As part of the trip the group visited several growers of Hodmedods’ products, such as Fairking farm, and heard about their 20+ years of experience with growing unusual crops. The group also visited the Wakelyn agroforestry farm, established by pioneer Martin Wolfe who sadly passed away in early March. They were certainly all inspired to do our best to continue his good work in enhancing diversity in agroecosystems.

The second day took place at the new Hodmedods warehouse, where we exchanged many practical insights around the growing, processing and marketing legumes and other minor crops. In particular sharing experiences on intercropping and the role of building greater diversity in the cropping system. Farmers from Sweden and the UK shared their experiences and challenges they had faced in diversifying their cropping systems (such as managing small batches, logistics, cleaning etc.) and how they had overcome them.

It was both interesting and inspiring to hear about the complexity of Nordisk Ravara’s and Hodmedod’s work, continuously learning about growing techniques and connecting the farmers’ produce to markets. Both companies focus on re-introducing heritage varieties, which are sometimes found through seed banks, but at other times simply through encountering a passionate elderly man who has nurtured his local pea variety for all his life and is happy to pass his knowledge onwards. Furthermore, experiences were exchanged about growing techniques and business logistics.

Simple videos were made documenting the talks and will be made available through the DiverIMPACTS network. Sharing this combination of inspiring stories and useful insights was accompanied by a wonderful variety of pulse-based meals. The diversity of culinary options ranged from a black bean brownie to lentil salads and a pea-based soy sauce, which was developed by a Swedish chef who came along on the trip. Altogether, the visit was full of lessons and inspiration and makes us excited for the English group to visit Sweden in June!

This forms part of the wider work being done in case study 15, which is building greater connections and knowledge exchange between businesses who are building value chains for diverse crops. If you are aware of a similar initiative in your country – please pass on details to katie.b(at)organicresearchcentre.com.