Much More than Agriculture

Saturday 14 July – Northern tour

A quarter of Dutch farmers and horticulturists have a business on the side, for example a care farm, farm education, recreation, agricultural childcare, farm shop, or agricultural nature management. What drives these farmers to develop a completely different branch than milking cows or growing potatoes? What can they offer customers, participants or guests?

We visited entrepreneurs who each have their own way of multi-functional farming: a care farm, a strawberry grower with self-picking garden, farm shop and other activities and a cheese farm with accommodation options. The tour crossed a large part of the Netherlands: from North Groningen to the final destination close to the coast.

Golden Raand

In 2002, Greet Cazemier and Bas Hofman founded a care farm. Greet Cazemier had just retired as a psychiatric nurse at a large care institution.

They work with people with intellectual disabilities and/or psychiatric disabilities. Eighty clients work at different locations or receive training. Some work in a wood workshop, others care for animals. In addition, they work in a coffee and tea company in Bedum and maintain the deer camp and cemeteries.

In 2006, Hofman and Cazemier bought the monumental De Oude Nadorst farm on the outskirts of Groningen. They converted this side location into a Bed & Breakfast and meeting room.

Since 2015, they have been working in collaboration with children’s farm De Beestenborg in Groningen. The approach is that the clients must be able to develop. The young people can obtain certificates, for example, for working with a chainsaw or brush cutter. NordwinCollege also provides space for examinations. In addition, De Golden Raand, in collaboration with TerraNext, provides an MBO-1 learning pathway for green and animal care.They cooperate with regional nature organization Groninger Landschap, clients also do day activities there, for example, care of livestock.

In 2015 they opened a coffee bar De Koffieleut in Bedum, a coffee and tearoom, and a gift shop.

Ice making
They make twenty kinds of ice cream. They sell the ice cream on the farm, but also to a few catering establishments in the neighborhood, such as Hotel het Gemeentehuis in Bedum, and for weddings. On request: energy ice cream, or almond ice cream.

Figures Golden Raand

  • 70 dairy cows
  • Production 500,000 kg/year
  • Milk robot 80 clients care farm
  • Ice making
  • Coffee and tearoom + giftshop in Bedum
  • Collaboration with schools

Kalter Aardbeien – strawberries and more

Richard and Annet Kalter have a 1.7-hectare strawberry nursery in IJsselmuiden. The company is too small to be able to run profitably, so they have looked for additional activities. The company organizes tours, has an indoor playground, organizes farm lunches and children’s parties, and has a farm shop and self-picking garden. The demand for arrangements is still growing.

Approximately 25 people work in peak periods (three of which are permanent). About 20 percent of the strawberries are sold on their farm; the rest is traded.

The market garden of Richard and Annet Kalter opened January 1, 1996. At that time, they took over the garden from Richard’s parents. The garden consisted of 20 ha of chicory force. Late in the nineties, they also started to grow different salad varieties next to the chicory. But even then the garden was not profitable, so something had to change. On May 1, 2002, they bought a one-hectare greenhouse. There they produce healthy and tasty strawberries of high quality from mid-March through to January for home and abroad.

The Kalters get their strawberries from strawberry plants they breed themselves. A strawberry plant makes tendrils with new slips. They cut the tendrils and the new slips are put apart in a field in July. These little slips grow into nice plants that go into the refrigerator at -1°C, which stops the growing process, until they need the plants. With the help of a machine they fill buckets with special strawberry compost. By hand, they put the plants in it. Then all the buckets go into the glasshouse. After a few weeks, the flowers appear and it’s time to put the bees into the greenhouse. Bees take care of the pollination of the flowers. Bees fly with good and sunny weather; bumblebees fly when the weather is dark.

After about six weeks, the first strawberries are mature. A strawberry plant has, on average, three clusters, which flower after each other. The first strawberries of a cluster are big; further in the season they become smaller. The picking can start!

Geothermal energy source
In March 2012, a geothermal heat source was realized by the Groenhouse Geo Power Koekoekspolder project in IJsselmuiden. Until 2014, the geothermal energy source provided for three (cucumber) farms, with a total of 17.5 hectares of heat. At the end of 2014, Kalter Aardbeien, together with a neighboring company, joined the geothermal network. On December 19, 2014, the gas tap was closed and the geothermal heat pump started to run.

The greenhouse is heated with the return water from the cucumber companies. The residual heat in the return water is warm enough to heat the strawberry nursery and farm shop. The water, which is 40 degrees Celsius, is cooled back to about 25 degrees and then goes to the neighboring company with seed cultivation to keep this farm free of frost. 

Figures Kalter aardbeien

  • 1.7 hectares of strawberries
  • Shop
  • Self-picking
  • Indoor playground
  • Lunches and children’s parties25 employees

De Willigen

The farm ‘De Willigen’, known regionally for ice cream and cheese sales, is located on the Vecht. Until 1981, the old farm lay on the narrow bank on the water. Then the Willig family crossed the road to build a new stable and yard on a piece of land.

The oldest stable accommodates 75 dairy cows and is located in the longitudinal direction from the road. There are five slotted silos opposite. Behind the large barn, there is a feed square with a feed store on the left and a machine shed and a young cattle shed. The other buildings were built in 1993 and 2013. Gradually this yard has been extended backwards with new stables. When you enter, you’ll see an organically grown, but compact company with stables to the left and back, and trench silos to the right.

Accomodations: Bed and breakfast
Why a B&B? The parents have given their son a choice: He can milk 150-200 cows in Flevopolder or run the B&B. The son did not want to milk 200 cows. The daughter-in-law runs B&B.

The rental accommodations consist of three group accommodations, seven stylish and luxuriously furnished rooms based on bed and breakfast, where you can also make use of a common room with kitchen, four luxury holiday apartments on the basis of self-catering. There is also a group room.

Cheese factory and shop
Founded 30 years ago.
Sales: in their own farm shop. Few restaurants in the area
In the shop, homemade farmhouse cheese, farm ice cream and regional products are sold. There is also a sunny terrace and garden on the Vecht.

Ice cream
Since 1998, the family has made fruit ice cream. In good weather, they sell 700 (at €1.10) balls in a day; in very bad weather, just two balls a day. The ice cream is made from strawberries, rhubarb and prunes from the garden.

Groups / tourists
Up until a few years ago, up to 25 groups a week visited the area. This has since decreased significantly, due in part to bankrupt shipping companies. People cut back on nice outings. Bed and breakfast has that hole. The advantage is that the company is close to Schiphol Airport, just 20 minutes away. Amsterdam organizes Cycletours for foreign tourists who also visit the Willigen for an ice cream, for example.

Figures De Willigen

  • 75 cows: They process 50,000 kg of milk in cheese-making.
  • Price: Baby cheese: €8.95; in Amsterdam: €15
  • Either types of herb-rich cheese
  • 5,000 nights a year

Multifunctional agriculture

A quarter of Dutch farmers and market gardeners have a business on the side, for example, a care farm, farm education, recreation, agricultural childcare, farm shop, or agricultural nature management. The sideline provides income for the company, but in addition the farmer-citizen connection is an important motive for entrepreneurs. A ‘real farmer’ also provides added value for the side business.

A large branch is care agriculture, in which the Netherlands, together with Norway, leads the way. More than 1,000 agricultural entrepreneurs receive mentally restricted people on their farms or elderly people with dementia.

Farm shops and agricultural childcare is also doing well. Boerencampings similar to glampings, with a jacuzzi in the lodge, entertainment for the children, toilets with floor heating and, of course, Wi-fi. Hundreds of farmers and horticulturists annually offer farm education to thousands of children from 4–12 years old, now a full-fledged teaching program for primary schools.