2023 FOCUS

Since its creation, the Innovation award for women farmers try to propose a specific focus for each edition. Whilst we talk about the need for a transition towards more sustainable food systems, it’s not possible to reach sustainability objectives without looking at the three dimensions: economic, environmental, and social as well as the requirement for financial and technological tools. For that reason, for the 2023 edition Copa-Cogeca wishes to showcase the innovative and novel solutions implemented by women that are supporting all the three pillars of sustainability. Whether that be on the farm, in their business decisions or to the benefit of the wider local community.

Meet the 5 finalists

Ines Dragao

Portugal - CAP Portugal

Herdade da Sancha is a sustainable and ecological family agriculture farm led by Inês Dragão and her three daughters. The farm, located on 300 hectares of land, focuses on breeding German Merino sheep and White Merino sheep. The transformation of the farm began in 2015, shifting away from conventional cattle and cereal production to a more sustainable and women-led agriculture approach. To ensure the well-being of their animals, the farm provides careful daily care to the ewes, offering them a tailored diet based on their nutritional needs at each stage of reproductive life. The farm grows a variety of crops, including peas, oats, barley, corn, beans, and vetch, to produce animal feed. They also produce their own hay and silage, ensuring a year-round supply of high-quality feed. Animal welfare is a top priority at Herdade da Sancha. The farm ensures that the animals have access to clean water, shelter, and a comfortable environment. They avoid using chemicals or synthetic products that could harm the animals’ health and implement natural methods for pest and disease control. The farm follows sustainable practices, including the conservation of soil, use of renewable energy, and waste reduction. They have transformed their cereal areas into biodiverse pastures and implemented a triennial rotation system to avoid using chemicals. They aim to improve ecological biodiversity and protect water resources.

In terms of neonatal management, the farm employs the Healthy Lamb Technique, which involves careful handling of newborn lambs, disinfection of the umbilical cord, and ensuring sufficient colostrum intake. They also practice early weaning at 45 days old to increase the economic profitability of the farm. Herdade da Sancha is committed to gender equality and providing job opportunities for women in agriculture. Currently, the farm’s only employee, besides the family members, is a woman. They plan to add another job position in the future to further support women in the agricultural industry. Future objectives of the farm include building a new sheepfold to enhance animal welfare and continuing to invest in improving sustainable practices. The farm aims to contribute to the production of high-quality and sustainable food by providing a healthy and natural environment for their animals.

Justine Dewitte

Belgium - Boerenbond

Justine Dewitte is the successor to her grandparents’ farm and has transformed it into an organic mixed farm focused on short supply chains. Following extensive experience working as a researcher and advisor in organic crops and herbs at a flanders researchc centre, Justine aims to expand the farm and provide customers with an enjoyable experience. She also teaches organic agriculture as a lecturer. ‘t Goed Ter Heule is a short-chain organic mixed farm with 4 hectares of cultivable land and pasture. They cultivate a diverse range of vegetables, fruits, and animals, selling their products through self-picking gardens, a farm shop, and local retailers. The recently renovated farmhouse now includes an eatery and hall for seasonal dishes. The farm also engages in additional awarenessraising activities. In terms of sustainability, the farm strives for a closed cycle, minimal waste, and limited food miles. They hold organic certification and adhere to strict standards, emphasizing responsibility. With a wide variety of crops and animals, the farm promotes lush biodiversity above and below ground. Animal manure is used as fertilizer, surplus produce is processed in their kitchen, and food leftovers go back to the animals, effectively closing the circle. Direct customers are their main focus, reducing food miles.

Socially, ‘t Goed Ter Heule aims to be inclusive and reclaim the traditional role of a farm as a place for everyone. Visitors are encouraged to explore the fields and stalls, promoting transparency in cultivation practices. The farm welcomes guided visits from various groups, including kindergartens, universities, special education institutions, and foreign schools. They also offer customized care and share knowledge with high school and adult education trainees. In addition, the farm employs people on permanent contracts and fosters a sense of togetherness by cooking and enjoying meals together. Economically, the farm operates as a private initiative without additional subsidies from the municipality or province. Each branch of the farm is expected to be profitable, with a primary focus on farming. By diversifying their crops and animals, they mitigate risks and reduce dependence on larger market players. Striving for efficiency, the farm aims to provide fair wages to its employees and ensure a sustainable income. Justine takes pride in growing quality products and charging appropriate prices.

Marzia Di Pastina

Italy - ACI

Marzia Di Pastina took on the challenge of revolutionizing her family’s agricultural business and making it more sustainable. She founded her own farm and is a member of the Cooperative San Lidano. LID.MAR. Farm spans over 20 hectares, with 7 hectares covered by multitunnel greenhouses. It specializes in growing leafy vegetables, baby leaf, endive, cabbages, savoy cabbage, leafy cabbage, turnip tops, watermelons, and pumpkins. To ensure safe and healthy products, the farm adheres to food safety standards and implements continuous monitoring of products and processes. Marzia has introduced a new approach to vegetable production for fresh-cut products based on feedback from retailers and consumers. Despite challenges posed by climate change, LID.MAR. Farm is developing sustainable growing systems, employing modern equipment, implementing drip irrigation, reducing chemical usage and fertilizers, and promoting biodiversity. In terms of sustainability, LID.MAR. Farm is registered in the National “Rete del Lavoro Agricolo di Qualità” (Quality Agricultural Work Network) and has obtained GlobalG.A.P. certification along with the G.R.A.S.P. Social Responsibility addon module. By integrating IPM systems and biotechnics such as Bacillus and Trichoderma spp., as well as practicing minimum tillage, the farm has managed to reduce chemical inputs by 40%. Environmental monitoring conducted over the first three years of operation revealed significant energy savings of over 60%, a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions, a 57% reduction in water consumption due to micro-irrigation systems, and a 60% reduction in waste through the reuse of vegetal waste as feed for local buffalo farms. These achievements have led to LID.MAR.’s certification as a Biodiversity Friend by the World Biodiversity Association.

LID.MAR. Farm actively participates in the San Lidano Cooperative Chain, which is certified by ISO 22005. This cooperative initiative supports sourcing criteria that prioritize local production and aims to enhance the economic value of its members’ products and the surrounding territory. Marzia has initiated several projects within the cooperative, including “ORTI LAZIALI,” a label that combines tradition and quality in horticulture, and “Cuore Rosso il Cocomero,” a premium brand for high-quality watermelons. Additionally, the cooperative has obtained BRC-ETRS (Ethical trade and responsible sourcing) certification, making it the world’s first fresh-cut company and food chain to achieve this recognition.

Monika Lason

Poland - KRIR

Before starting her own goat farm enterprise, Monika Lasson graduated from Warsaw Life Science University and gained experience working in cheese dairies across Europe. In 2011, she started producing goat’s milk. Through trial and error she now has developed cheese coming from her breeds of alpine and Saanen goats. The farmer utilizes modern machinery and a short milk supply chain, processing fresh raw material with minimal additives. They combine strains of bacterial cultures to create new flavors and cheeses, blending Dutch and Swiss cheese-making techniques. Their cheeses have been well-received by customers and restaurateurs. Monika promotes healthy food with minimal preservatives and, during the pandemic, expanded cheese sales through their website, emphasizing a short food supply chain and healthy eating. The cheeses are naturally cared for and packaged in biodegradable materials to reduce the carbon footprint. The farmer takes pride in being able to shape the flavors of their cheeses and share them with consumers. In Poland, goat and sheep cheeses are not widely popular, so introducing artisanal cheeses is a novelty. The farmer’s sustainable farming model focuses on proper animal feeding to ensure high-quality milk and minimize environmental impact. Working within a short food supply chain contributes to sustainability and customer satisfaction.

Monika actively participates in fairs, restaurants, and slow food shops, valuing direct customer contact to share knowledge and understand their needs. She invites cheese lovers to visit their farm, offering glimpses of the cheese factory and providing tastings paired with appropriate wines, oils, and preserves. She enjoys the creative process, independence, and challenges of their work, including the development of innovative products like goat’s milk ice cream. Despite the demanding nature of agricultural work, she finds satisfaction in creating and selling their own products while seeing customer happiness as a motivation for further growth.

Desiree De La Caridad Nieves

Italy - Confagricoltura

Desiree Nieves is the head of her family business located near Lake Bolsena in the Viterbo province. Since taking over in 2015, Desiree has transformed the farm into an entirely organic operation, prioritizing sustainability and eco-friendliness. Continuous training and a passion for quality have led Desiree to become a certified oil sommelier and professional taster. She also actively promotes female entrepreneurship in agriculture, advocating for representation and collective growth. The farm encompasses 22 hectares, with 7 dedicated to hazelnut groves, 2 to olive groves, and the remainder used for cereal production. The cultivation follows strict organic practices, certified and carried out with a deep respect for the environment. An underground irrigation system with driplines helps conserve water and is connected to a weather station to optimize irrigation. The packaging used for their organic extra virgin olive oil is fully recyclable, emphasizing their commitment to environmentally friendly practices. The farm operates self-sufficiently, reinvesting earnings to continuously improve the quality of their products and environmental practices. Desiree uses social media to communicate their commitment to conscious agriculture, serving as an example for other businesses and future generations. She actively supports female businesses, fostering connections among women in agriculture and emphasizing their value to society. Currently, Desiree is also organizing a conference on agriculture, culture, and territory, with a focus on women’s perspectives. Additionally, she tackles important social issues such as violence against women by collaborating with public institutions to implement educational projects in schools. Desiree takes pride in the farm’s connection to the land and its rich history.

The region has been cultivating olive oil since ancient Etruscan times, and she feels honored to continue this tradition. As an immigrant from Cuba who has become an Italian citizen, Desiree appreciates the diverse cultural heritage of the land. She aims to promote the region’s historical treasures, particularly the ancient Etruscan necropolis of Bisenzio, by organizing historical treks in collaboration with local authorities. These treks will showcase the evolution of the area and its agricultural practices, highlighting the enduring bond between humans and nature.

The Award shall be granted according to the following non-cumulative criteria

Examples of Innovative Solutions, considering impact on economic, social and environmental level

Innovation may include working methods, organisational and strategic approaches and new forms of technology that contribute to supporting sustainable practices. The sustainable practices should make strong synergies between the three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social. Economic sustainability may refer to, but not limited to financial viability; added value to business or organisation; ability to re-invest and examples of maximising performance. Environmental sustainability may refer to, but not limited efficient use of resources; practices to enhance biodiversity; reducing impact on the environment to support food security or animal health and welfare management.

Social sustainability may refer to, but not limited employment opportunities; activities or community led initiatives; processes or integration of gender equality to the business or organisation; strategies that lead to positive social change.

Innovation Transfer

Innovation must not be limited to one single farm or cooperative but should have a potential impact or effect on all holdings in the same production sector or region, or on the area’s relations with the outside world.

In this context, innovation not only refers to those aspects which affect the farm or cooperative itself, but also to the whole value chain, including machinery, the packaging of products, channels of distribution and export methods for agricultural or forestry products, as well as consumers.

The sustainability of innovation

The innovation must be economically and socially viable and whilst supporting the agriculture sector reducing its impact on the environment. It must also have a certain longevity and should stand the test of time in order to have an impact, instead of appearing and disappearing in a short space of time.

The innovation should also promote the maintenance and creation of jobs in rural areas, entrepreneurship and new business models.

New communication methods and tools

New communication methods can include tools used to improve farm or forestry education for children and adults and/or improve consumers’ knowledge of farm or forestry production methods, or of the nutritional value of agricultural products. Conveying how farmers are at the forefront of innovation and increased sustainable practices. It can also include activities and examples of knowledge transfer for the benefit of farmers and cooperatives.


5 key dates

17th November 2022


of the competition

21st April 2023


for submissions

by July 2023


of eligible applications & Jury deliberation

21st July 2023


of the jury’s decision to the award winner

October 2023

Award ceremony



Pekka Pesonen

Secretary-General of Copa-Cogeca

Janusz Wojciechowski

European Commissioner for Agriculture

Robert Biedroń

Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament

Lotta Folkesson

Chair of the Women’s Committee of Copa-Cogeca


Online Application

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