“Circular agriculture feels like the most natural way of farming. Our cows eat grass-clover and some grain, both of which grow on our land using manure from the cows. Nutrients are returned to the soil and so you get an independently functioning system. Many farmers import raw materials and export meat and dairy products - that is not a circular process.
Since the middle of the 20th century, increasing in scale has been ingrained in farmers’ minds. So, if you want to survive in the current system, you must keep growing. You have hardly any influence on prices. Instead, you are stuck between multinationals who sell you concentrates and Friesland Campina who buys your milk. Normally a business will raise its own invoice, but farmers deliver a product and only hear what they get for it two weeks later.”
That's why I find it strange to see so many farmers demonstrating at the Malieveld in The Hague. Farmers want the room to grow even more and stay in this system, while they are victims of it. I do understand the emotions because I feel them myself. My family has been farming for generations. But if you take a broader view, you see that it is precisely this rat race model that is destroying farmers. Yet you can also earn a living outside the system. If you only focus on production, you limit your options.
We run a hotel, an educational programme, cheese making workshops, and a farm shop. We sell partly under our own name; our camembert Zwaluwgekwetter can be found at Ekoplaza supermarkets and at many restaurants. If you are anonymous and sell as a private label, then you are interchangeable.
From a financial point of view, I understand that a farmer can't start making changes straightway. We had a bumpy ride at the beginning too. And consumers are really not going to pay more. That is why it is up to the politicians. Wherever I go, I always say that we must move towards true pricing: a system in which the damage to the environment and climate is included in the price of the product. Our next step is to become less dependent on animal production. I know it sounds like a crazy thing for a dairy farmer to say, but I want to be a realist and not defend my product at any cost."
We have to move towards a system where we can feed all mouths as efficiently as possible, in a fair way. There is already enough animal food. We are going to start using our grain to produce something that can feed the cows and pigs, maybe oat milk and rye bread. Oat milk is a hot topic in our organic farmers' app group, there are opportunities out there.”
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