Regenerative farming tackles climate change

University of Helsinki alumnus Juuso Joona is a farmer, researcher and trainer of regenerative farming practices whose interest in soil carbon sequestration was sparked at the University of Helsinki. Within his lifetime, he wishes to see a complete change in current agricultural policy.

Juuso Joona has dedicated his free time and working hours to something important, in a number of roles. He serves nature and the climate as a farmer, researcher and trainer of farming practices.

The common denominator of these different activities is regenerative agriculture, the methods of which Joona himself uses in farming at his Tyynelä farm in Joutseno, south-eastern Finland. He received the spark for regenerative farming at the University of Helsinki.

Regenerative farming is one of the big mindset changes needed in the fight against climate change. It is founded on the premise that a healthy soil benefits both the farmer and the climate. The farmer gets a better harvest while the soil binds more carbon than usual, as that capacity has not been suppressed, for example, through excessive fertilising.

“Regenerative farming is about improving the state of the environment while producing food. Up to now, and even today for the most part, agriculture degrades the environment. In regenerative farming, attempts are being made to reverse the setting,” Joona says.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), limiting climate change to an increase in temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius is no longer possible solely by restricting emissions. In addition, the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere needs to be ‘vacuumed’ and bound, for example, to forests. There is a lot of talk about trees as carbon sinks, but carbon can be similarly stored in arable land.

From countryside to city

Joona is also a researcher who is writing a doctoral thesis on soil carbon sequestration at the University of Helsinki.

In addition, he trains other farmers in regenerative farming practices. Furthermore, Joona is an entrepreneur whose company Soilfood, founded together with other parties, provides services and products, such as recycled fertilisers, to industry and farmers.

Joona fertilises his own fields with by-products from the forest industry.

As a child, Joona dashed around the same fields. The Tyynelä farm is his childhood home. In 2001, he applied and was admitted to study agriculture and forestry on Viikki Campus.

“My parents’ generation wanted to leave the countryside. I’ve never had the same feeling. I found the profession a natural fit. First, I chose my line of study, with the work on the family farm coming only after that.”

All action is intertwined

Joona graduated with a master’s degree in the environmental engineering of agriculture. The most rewarding aspect of the studies was the broad-based approach that has followed Joona to his work even today.

“In the end, I was a student for 10 years, and I don’t regret a day. I completed a lot of courses, and cross-pollination was the best.”

Joona also chose courses from other faculties. Among other things, University Lecturer Ripa Willamo’s courses in environmental conservation at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences left a particularly strong imprint. It was partly there that the spark for the potential of agriculture in conservation was ignited.

“It was a very rewarding choice, perhaps an exceptional one for a student of agriculture. Of the agricultural courses, I particularly liked the ones in agricultural policy. Today, I’m very interested in influencing it. Within my lifetime, I wish to see a complete change in current agricultural policy, beginning with at least some kind of change of direction as soon as possible.”

Agriculture is an applied field: instead of putting theory into practice directly, it is often necessary to experiment with what actually works. According to Joona, the studies on Viikki Campus were also applied.

Although during the terms he spent the weeks in Helsinki, for growing season he spent all weekends at home working on the farm. It was the same for many of his fellow students. This inevitably had an impact on the content of the lectures.

“It was a very effective transfer of knowledge into practice. In the same way, the questions we students asked at the lectures came directly from the field, giving teachers a sense of practice. Similarly, my current work combines knowledge, theory and practice.”

These days Joona considers his various roles a single entity, and he does not, for example, distinguish between work and free time. All action is intertwined.

“Of course, it requires organisation and time management.”

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