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“I SWAPPED MY BUSINESS OUTFITS FOR BOOTS AND A MACHETE.”

URSULA ARTZMANN

After an entrepreneurial life of 20 years working with big corporates, a near death experience opened my eyes to a new way of looking at the world; a world that I always felt deeply connected to, that I cherished and that nurtured me. So in my late 40’s I went to study environmental engineering and followed my childhood dream of working in and with nature. And with the inquisitive drive of a child I absorbed it all and melted into the topics that circled around one question: how can we humans live in harmony with the nature that we are a part of.

So I swapped my business outfits for boots and a machete and left Europe to live on a farm in the Brazilian rainforest. There, I learned about Syntropic Agriculture – a farming mindset and technique that works with nature’s processes and acts truly conducive to life. That eventually led me to starting an association called Soulfood Forestfarms, helping farmers around the world to transition to regenerative agroforestry in order to produce highly nutritious, highly diverse food for local communities while restoring ecosystems, increasing biodiversity and nourishing the water cycle.

“WHEN WE REALISE THAT WE ARE A PART OF THE LAND, WE CREATE BUBBLES OF WELLBEING.”

What does “dreaming locally” mean to you?

I am a born dreamer – but luckily also a born doer – so “dreaming locally” to me is the first step to a new reality. Localism starts with people; with the belief that the land we are living on can be co-created, that we can live self-sustainably and in harmony with the given resources. When we realize that we are a part of the land – that we have a function to fulfill to keep it thriving or to heal it – we create local bubbles of wellbeing. By nature we are – as all life around us – designed to thrive. Yet thriving only works when we realize we are a part of this beautiful larger being called life, living in harmony with the laws of nature. Dreaming locally means that we understand this and see it as a gift to be a part of an intelligent system. Only then can we make it a reality.

My vision for a more local future is where farmers co-create with local communities to decide what can be produced on the land and how to keep that value in the local area. When we produce in a way that is regenerative, the value of soil increases, the value of food grown increases, the value of genetic strains in seeds improve in terms of their adaption to the land, the value of social interactions go up, and the value of community becomes tangible.

“WE HAVE TO RETHINK OUR LIFESTYLE, REIMAGINE WHAT OUR LIVES COULD LOOK LIKE.”

“GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY, YOUR HAIR MESSY AND YOUR EYES SHINY AGAIN.”

What are the biggest challenges that prevent us from connecting with nature, locally?

We have to rethink our lifestyle, reimagine what our lives could look like. We’ve all now experienced how a tiny virus can completely disrupt our way of living globally, learning that we can work from home, travel less, buy from the farmer in the village and support each other.

The journey to reconnect with nature starts locally – within. And that inner dialogue can be beautifully triggered by nature – by living more outdoors.

How can others dream locally?  

Start with yourself; if you have a balcony or little garden, start planting some of your food, and plant more than you will need. Join a local CSA, a community supported agriculture group –  there you will connect directly with a farmer and work together with other families and neighbours from your community on the farm for a few days and receive tasty, locally grown food weekly. Go help a farmer, a gardener, join a community farm, go hiking, get your hands dirty, your hair messy and your eyes shiny again.