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Martin Sedlacek: "More organic farming in less productive areas"

Interview by Erminia Ciarleglio, DLG

Martin Sedlacek from the Czech Republic is DLG member for more than 20 years now. He is a publisher and a director of a publishing house for journals on agriculture and other specialist topics in Czech and Slovac Republics and a farm journalist himself as well.

Mr Sedlacek, please tell us about your profession and your connection to agriculture?

My translated surname “Sedláček” means “small farmer”. I am used to say I have a farmer’s genes, I have farmer in my surname, and I have a farming education as well. I finished my studies at Czech Agriculture university in Prague in 1991 - so I have actively experienced our velvet revolution and communist regime collapse. I was very happy of that, and I think nobody from the west can understand how crazy the regime was. The world opened for me, and I spent one year in USA as participant of Ohio state University student exchange program. There I gained practice on farms in New Your state and California. The year after I have received scholarship from University of London where I finished in 1994 MSc. in agriculture economics.

In the beginning of 1990ties we had in Czech Republic called restitution and transformation process in agriculture and family farms collectivized in 1950ties had the chance to take back original property and to start private family farming. One day I got the idea to establish a monthly magazine for this new group of people that emerged in Czech farming, and I established magazine “Farmář”. Myself and two friends started despite there were four competitors having other and strong farming magazines. It would be a long story…however finally I had during the time the chance to buy those publishers and today we are the leading publishing house for farmers in Czech and Slovak Republic. We have 10 magazines for farmers, 3 magazines for gardening and floristics, 2 magazines for veterinary medicine and 4 magazines for municipality, also online and website pages, of course. We produce about 20 new books per year and we organize field days and exhibitions for farmers.

Which current problems of Czech and Slovak agriculture need to be addressed?

The current problem is quite similar as to most farmers in the EU: expensive fertilizers, fuels, electricity. Farmers are blamed that they are reason for high food price. However, the increase of prices for farm products does by no means cover the cost increases for agricultural inputs and equipment. Mainly farms with animal husbandry have a difficult time.

Where do you see the biggest challenges in agriculture worldwide?

It is definitly food sufficiency at reasonable consumer price. There is a lot of hunger in some parts of the world today and we live in sufficiency in Europe for the last 50 years. I am a bit afraid of Green Deal EU policy in terms of decline of farm production here and food price increase. I fully agree with the efforts to protect our planet and our environment, but we must find a reasonable compromise between these efforts and people's standard of living.

What are the individual options for farmers to lead their farms into the future?

I see only one option. To be informed and trained and to use the most modern tools and technologies. It does not matter whether they are cereal or fruit farmers, dairy or pig farmers, or whether they are organic farmers. I think the CAP should encourage farmers in productive areas to produce high quality under improved environmental conditions. Organic farming is a good way forward, but today's organic farming would not even produce enough food for people in the EU. We should be more ecological and environmentally friendly in less favored and less productive areas.

What is your special relationship to DLG and DLG membership?

I am proud to be DLG member and I guess it is for more than 20 year already. We have a very open and friendly cooperation in terms of promoting the DLG Field Days, Agritechnica and EuroTier here in the Czech and Slovak Republics.

I am sure due to our long-term cooperation many Czech farmers and some exhibitors started to visit Hanover or the DLG-Feldtage events. I and my journalist colleagues attend the DLG events every year. From my point of view, they are the top farm events in Europe.