Bulgaria: Dutch sports lady promotes regenerative agriculture from the Netherlands to Tokyo via Bulgaria by bike

Kirsten Wielaard has cycled through Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, visiting farms and meeting with producers to discuss the benefits of regenerative farming.

Sofia farmers market

Sofia Farmers Market visit

Kirsten and her bike were at Farm Made, the twice-weekly farmers' market in cetral Sofia, on Wednesday. This was one of her stopovers along the nearly 10,000  km velo tour from the Netherlands to Tokyo that she has embarked on to promote regenerative farming.

At the Farm Made market in Sofia on Wednesday Kirsten Wielaard met with local farmers who produce organic food in regions with clean environment. She also met with representatives of the Bioselena Organic Farming Foundation, which organizes the market, and of the Veloevolution organization of bike enthusiasts.

She told reporters who were there to meet with her, that she hopes to inspire both people who would take up regenerative agriculture as a side job or hobby, and farmers to switch from mainstream to regenerative farming. "It looks scary at first because it is not so well known but you can really make a good business out of it," she said.

NL embassy in Bulgaria
Beeld: Kirsten Wielaard

A stop at the Netherlands embassy in Sofia

Kirsten and her friend Eefke Meijer made a short stop at the Netherlands Embassy in Bulgaria and met dep. ambassador Jurrien van der Horst and embassy team. Over fresh lemonade and strawberries Kirsten shared her motivation and mission. During her trip preparation Kirsten discovered that Bulgaria has nice examples of sustainable agriculture which Kirsten was eager to see personally.

Farm of Sabine and Jelle
Beeld: Kirsten Wielaard

Visiting young Dutch farmers in the middle of Bulgaria

One of Kirsten’s destinations in Bulgaria was the farm of Sabine and Jelle in the village of Tsenovo, near Stara Zagova (Central Bulgaria). The young Dutch couple moved to Bulgaria an year ago to regain their connection with nature. Sabine fell in love with Bulgaria during her volunteer social work for Tabitha Bulgaria Foundation and decided to move here. Jelle and Sabine have a sustainable farm with and a apple orchard, vine and free range chickens to fight the bugs.

Traditional vs. regenerative farming
Beeld: Kirsten Wielaard

Kirsten’s mission

Her mission during her bike tour is to promote awareness for regenerative farming and raise funding for regenerative ecosystem projects. Regenerative faming turns dry desert areas into fertile land, using a combination of animals, smart farming  and traditional natural farming techniques, and that restores biodiversity, she said. Kirsten Wielaard is convinced that by working with nature, instead of against it, regenerative farming projects can give both nature and society a second chance.

Regenerative farming - also called climate smart agriculture - steps on agricultural topsoil regeneration practices and capturing carbon dioxide (CO2). Practiced by large food producers and small farms alike, it improves natural resources instead of depleting them. Regenerative farming has proved that healthy food can be produced in a sustainable way in an organic topsoil with reduced dependence on fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. It brings bees and other pollinators back to the fields, relies on birds and insectivores to keep them free of pests, and boosts natural biodiversity.