The first stop after an early morning flight was a trip to J. de Vries Potplantencultures in de Kwakel. Specializing in growing cacti and mini-Christmas trees, the group heard about the complex cutting and growing practises in the nursery, whilst also hearing some of the challenges the business faces, including high costs of production. The group also discussed the importance of succession planning for the future of the industry.
Following this, the group nipped down the road to Arcadia Chrysanten who specialise in growing 50 million stems annually in glasshouses. As well as offering customers top quality stems, sustainability is also a key objective of the business. The group toured around the expansive glasshouses and saw the high-tech packing facilities at work.
A taste of urban farming
The next day, the group visited two urban farms, the first being the Dakakker in central Rotterdam. With the rooftop spanning 1000m2, it is the largest open-air roof farm in the Netherlands and grows vegetables, edible flowers, fruits for the city-dwellers, alongside having bee hives and two hens. Situated in the city centre with sprawling views, the group heard about how the farm educates children on food and food systems, and how the company hopes to expand to other rooftops in the future.
After a taste of urban horticulture, the group travelled to the Floating Dairy Farm in Rotterdam Port. The farm’s business model is centred around sustainability and the circular economy, with the manure processed into pellets for use in local gardens. Hosting 40 cows, the floating farm provides city residents with access to locally produced dairy products including milk, yoghurt and cheese, which the group were happy to sample!
The next stop was to the Captein family-farm in the Grote Polder of Zoeterwoude. Milking around 170 cows, the farm has been in the family for generations, and now specialises in producing artisan, farm house cheeses – much of which is sold in the on-site farm shop. As well as hearing how the cheese is produced using traditional methods, the group heard how the family engages with the public and had an access-all tour of the farm and cheese making facilities.
Policy hats on
After an early morning visit to the Dutch House of Representatives, the group arrived at their final stop at the LTO office in the Hague. Kindly hosted by the Hague-based LTO team, the group heard all about how the organisation lobbies for all sectors of the farming industry, which is particularly important ahead of the upcoming Dutch elections in November. They also heard first-hand about the challenges in the sector including water quality and markets. The group also exchanged views on animal welfare, technology and the future of the industry.
Speaking after the trip, BAB Senior Policy Advisor, Kate Adams said:
“It was fantastic to visit a range of farming types across the Netherlands and hear about the ongoing challenges in the sector – many of which are faced in Northern Ireland too. But as well as facing challenges, the sector in both the Netherlands and Northern Ireland have an enormous wealth of opportunity, and the chance to ideas and solutions was of enormous value to the group”.