The Green Rebel
The daily hectic city life combined with a job in the corporate world didn’t suit Carlo Steensma anymore. He wanted to do something that actually made an impact, both on the planet ánd on himself. He decided to quit his job and start a new journey – the journey of The Green Rebel. Carlo drove his campervan to Spain and bought a piece of land in Catalonia. Here he wants to transform 15 hectares of degraded land into a regenerative agroforestry farm. Full of enthusiasm, Carlo tells us about his journey so far.
What inspired you to start The Green Rebel?
While walking the Camino de Santiago 2 years ago (a pilgrimage in Spain to the city of Santiago de Compostela, walking 900 km over 5 weeks), I was amazed by the beauty and magic of nature. At the same time, I was opening myself to a new path of life after resigning from my corporate consulting job: I decided to pursue a more meaningful life in a time where our planet (and let’s not forget ourselves) needs it most.
Agriculture is one of the most damaging and inefficient industries, causing our biodiversity & forests to disappear while heavily polluting our waters, atmosphere, and our very own bodies. Not even to mention the horror we give to animals.
During my Camino, I saw the movie ‘Life in Syntropy’, a short video about Ernst Götsch a pioneer in agroforestry who reforested a 480 hectares farm while producing the best cacao in the world. He introduced techniques that systematically combined the cultivation of vegetables, roots, grains & fruits to increase biodiversity and production. I got so inspired that I wanted to do something similar myself on a piece of land: To leave behind me something better than when I found it. It is my part for the planet, even if it is just a small part, it makes an impact.
The Green Rebel was founded to rebel against the food industries, to produce food in a different way than what most of us think is “the normal”. Producing while respecting the environment: Mimicking a forest, where crops are planted in multiple horizontal layers and with a lot of diversity, diseases are prevented and spread less. This means that no pesticides are needed. Because a lot of roots are in the soil for many years, a lot of water is absorbed and the crops are more resilient for draughts and need less water or external inputs to thrive, just like a forest. Because most of the crops are perennials and not annuals, the plants and trees will have a lot of carbon that is stored in their roots, trunks, and soil. Agroforestry could help us with our most urgent environmental issues, we just need to do and demand it as consumers.
How do you want to inspire farmers to change their approach?
By leading my life by example. Farmers are often blamed for many issues and even though I strongly believe farmers have to do things differently, I think that change will go faster if there are some new models to follow. If I, without any farming background, can farm successfully in the eyes of farmers (meaning profitably) while producing food that contributes to biodiversity, being carbon negative and without animal abuse. If more and more individuals and farmers are showing a new way then every farmer should be able to follow. Once our way of farming has shown to be profitable, we wish to be a hub where local farmers can feel welcome to participate in free educational workshops so they can get inspired for their own business. Building trust will take time, it’s only by doing and being the change that we can imagine a better future for all. Our main crops will be olives and almonds, trees that a big part of the Mediterranean is full of, but with less than €0,5 per kg the farmers cannot be profitable anymore, and their soil is getting depleted. If we can show that they can increase their profit by having more crops on their land and have to work less on their land, it is a win-win for everyone.
What do you hope to accomplish with The Green Rebel?
That soon farms will look more like nature, not like endless fields of 1 crop where no insect can survive. More like forests instead of football fields, so that biodiversity increases and we become more and more resilient to extreme weather conditions. Our governments play an important role in this transition, they need to support farmers who they have pressured before to industrialize heavily, and support this sustainable way of farming. If both farmers and consumers can produce and consume food coming from food forests at a fair price, then I am happy. This requires a big change on many different levels… We cannot keep eating the same vegetable or fruit the entire year. We cannot keep buying for such low prices at the supermarkets where food is shipped in from the other side of the planet instead of the other side of our country. It all comes down to responsible production and consumption.
How has the journey been so far?
Very unexpected: from hunters with shotguns on the first day at the farm to meeting the love of my life. When covid hit us in March 2020, I had to stay with my parents and work from home. I had to rethink how I could make changes so I would get closer to my dreams. With a campervan, a laptop, and unlimited internet I drove to Southern Europe to find a piece of land & getting an idea of how I could realize an agroforestry farm. I visited over 30 pieces of land and with a good friend we made a crowdfunding video. 4 months later we have secured 15 hectares of land 2 hours south of Barcelona, some amazing volunteers are helping build the brand and website, and we are already planning our first events in 2021 and have already made some amazing olive oil and almond butter. It is all still quite unreal, all of a sudden living in the mountains of Catalunya, instead of in Hoofddorp in the Netherlands with my parents. It is a lot of work to register as a charity in the Netherlands, to set up the marketing, social media, the supply chain for our first products, to do all the paperwork in Spain, and so much more. It requires a lot of effort and time, but everything energizes me!
In what way can someone reading this help you and your mission?
In multiple ways! You can be a rebel by planting a small food forest in your garden or balcony. Watch some videos on Youtube and just start with something. You can help the Green Rebel by donating on our crowdfunding page (bit.ly/thegreenrebel) so we can really start our project in 2021. You can also buy a bottle of our very first olive oil (all the profit goes towards the project). If you cannot financially support the project, follow our journey on social media, talk about it with your friends. Any support and motivation is welcome. We are all in this together.
Or you can start small with everyday actions, buy your veggies at the market or directly from an organic farm or even a local food forest. Organic and plant-based are the most sustainable options to choose for every time you buy food, with regards to water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity & deforestation.
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