Dr. Heike Kuhnert

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Communication services for customers in the agricultural and food industry

Stay curious

A text about my life's journey, what am I writing? What has particularly moved me on the previous stages of my life, and what of it I would like to share with other people at this point? I put my thoughts under the motto "Stay curious". "Staying curious" for me personally encompasses many aspects that it takes to stay joyful and open to change and new knowledge in an ever faster spinning, more complex world. For me, this also includes looking again and again with a clear mind at who and what I encounter, and what my own truth about things is. Privately and professionally. This is not always easy, sometimes exhausting, and yet it is worthwhile.

Dr. Heike Kuhnert (photo Schmid) - Diplomas in Agricultural Economics, Ecological Environmental Protection, graduated in 1998. Currently: Self-employed in the project office Land und Markt, Hamburg.

Allow uncertainty

What does that have to do with Witzenhausen? I came to Witzenhausen in 1984 because I wanted to hear more about organic farming. And I wanted to learn how ecology and economy could be brought together. With my interest in organic farming, I was already in good company at that time, but with economics, it was rather limited. The focus on business administration was correspondingly small. Was there a hint of ideology in our student ranks, ecology "good" and economics "evil"? I was obviously lucky to have had an exciting sociology and economics class at school, so the first business economics lecture by a Witzenhausen university lecturer didn't really scare me. The (to us) sometimes provocative articles he brought along probably always had a deeper meaning. People and discussions have brought me further when I could allow my uncertainty and change of perspective.

From Villa Hügel along the Elbe

My diploma thesis on marketing issues in direct marketing with Professor Bernd Wirthgen was "the key" to Villa Hügel in Nordbahnhofstraße, where some of the economics professors were sitting at the time. I added organic environmental protection to my agricultural studies and did my doctorate on the basis of research projects on on-farm processing and direct marketing in organic and conventional agriculture. During this time I was able to lay a thick foundation for my professional network. In 1998, I went to the Saxon State Institute for Agriculture in Dresden for two and a half years to work as a consultant for organic marketing. Having previously applied for research funds as a scientist, I was now allowed to get to know the other side: how to manage money and spend it as sensibly as possible. The Elbe has accompanied me ever since, and I have been living and working in Hamburg since 2001. I moved to the north for a research position at the University of Hamburg. We spent four years researching the expansion of organic farming in Germany and were right in the middle of the BSE crisis and the "agricultural turnaround". We contributed our experience to the development of the Federal Organic Farming Program. It was an exciting and fruitful time for organic farming. I also learned during this time how difficult it is to formulate measurable political goals and develop the "right" measures to achieve them. The deeper you delve into topics, the more their complexity becomes apparent and you realize how little we actually know (yet) about the interdependencies.

Project Office Land and Market

I have been working as a freelancer since 2006, combining my scientific and agricultural expertise with communication services for clients in the agricultural and food industry. Over the past nine years, I have experienced in concrete terms how challenging it is, for example, to record and evaluate dairy farms in terms of sustainability aspects: Together with the Thünen Institute for Business Administration and QM-Milch e.V., we have developed a concept for this. We humans want simple answers to guide our actions. Unfortunately, the reality is more complicated: organic is not always better, small farms are not per se more sustainable than large enterprises, and so on. This brings us back to "staying curious" and having the courage to question our own truths. If we succeed in this, we can openly discuss goals and measures for a sustainable agriculture and food industry worldwide and honestly name existing conflicts of goals. Contributing to this with my work is both my heart's desire and my motivation.


Saro Gerd Ratter: Many thanks dear Heike for your contribution. I especially like your sentence: "The deeper one goes into topics in terms of content, the more their complexity opens up and one realizes how little we actually (still) know about the interrelationships." I think acknowledging this fact should make us more humble to want to "manipulate" nature.

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