I recently organized a trip to a local organic farm close to our adidas HQ in Germany for colleagues to learn more about one of our core values and an adidas nutrition principle – ‘Choose Sustainably’. As we strolled through the fields of Baumannshof, the farmer delved into what makes an organic farm: Organic farming regards humans, animals, soil and plants as a synergic whole, keeping everything in harmony.
His farming philosophy is designed to make visitors think about the food choices they make and how they can choose more sustainable ones. However, the learnings I took from the land transfer seamlessly to the workplace.
1. Invest in the environment and not just the crop itself
A lot of effort and investment goes into the environment and the surroundings of the vegetables farmed at Baumannshof. By planting flowers nearby, harmful insects are diverted away from the crops. The size of the fields is reduced, reserving space for grass to grow on the borders, thus protecting the crops from surrounding conventional farming methods.
It struck me that it’s worthwhile putting some extra effort and energy into components that will not make profit but will help to create an environment that will be sustainable while still being successful.
2. Plants need time and space to grow and develop
Our group of seven noticed that a huge area of land at Baumannshof is covered in clover to help enrich the soil naturally with nitrogen. Nothing is planted in the field for two years, giving the soil time to rest and recover. Instead of using pesticides, lettuce crops are planted with a larger than average distance between them. This allows wind to act as a natural deterrent for insects and mold.
3. Create a framework that allows plants to help themselves
It all starts with the soil. Humus, the organic component of soil, is able to store 3-5 times more water than its own weight. By increasing the humus mass, the soil will not only contain more nutrients, but will also be more resilient to environmental factors and will act as a sponge in long dry periods or heavy rainy times. Without investment into a strong foundation, you cannot yield a strong crop.
Conventional farming uses pesticides and fertilizers to protect their produce and get the most out of it, while exploiting the earth of its nutrients, leaving less and less every year until nothing can grow without unnatural assistance. In contrast, organic farming uses robust species, crop rotation, natural fertilizers and specific recovery methods to allow the plants to protect themselves and grow on their own. Instead of fixing the problems later, they build a strong base and surrounding to allow the plants to help themselves.
Crop lessons for teams and companies
You might be asking yourself when this article will finally address work life? Well maybe it already has. Go back to the three points and exchange the word plants/crops for employees. Now decide if you can find similarities between sustainable farming and a sustainable work life.
The important thing is to understand which environment is best for you and to look for the opportunities to work according to that. Are you a diamond that is created under pressure and control? Or are you the strong apple tree, that has had time to grow and develop naturally, producing shiny red apples every year by giving protection in sunny and rainy times?
Being sustainable is not just about buying organic. It’s about creating the best environment on the field, at work and in life. When everyone is thriving, we can create a system that is sustainable for everyone.