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A Dutch Impression, Part II: Agriculture



Photo: animals return; buckwheat and huttentut ("canola" family). Photos courtesy of LandvonOns.


Agriculture organizations

In the last 70 years, things have gone wrong with the farmland, due to, among other things, the enormous increase in scale, the emergence of the factory farming industry, the construction of mega-stables, the use of agricultural poisons and neglect of the soil, a large part of the biodiversity and the soil life destroyed. By contrast small-scale agriculture, with a mix of arable farming and livestock farming, created a great wealth of diverse life.

According to a publication of the Compendium of the Living Environment, two thirds of the Netherlands consists of agricultural and horticultural land. More than 71% of this consists of the livestock industry. From this it can be concluded that more than 47% of the land area of the Netherlands consists of the livestock industry. This industry, together with the ornamental flowers, is the pride of the Netherlands because of the enormous export. Not enough attention is paid to the dirty sides of this billion-dollar business. See Article by F. Schouten, former vet and later director of the organization Dier in Nood in the magazine Dier en Recht October 2018; Export is the main culprit in the polluting livestock sector: “Piglets are fattened in the Netherlands with feed from South America, slaughtered in Hungary and eventually shipped to China. Pork and chicken meat in particular is exported to China,..”.


Foundation Aardpeer

Since 2021, the www.aardpeer.nl Foundation has been committed to promoting nature-friendly agriculture and sustainable food production.

Through the issue of two bond loans, the Aardpeer Foundation buys agricultural land and leases this land to nature-friendly farmers for a price the speculative market price.


The cooperative landvanons.nl (LvO, Our Land)

The Landvanons cooperative was founded in the autumn of 2019 and now has almost 24,000 members. The members pay about $20 membership fee and then purchase an amount of square meters of LvO farmland to be determined by themselves. LvO’s land is purchased by an internet vote of all members. All members together are the owners of the land. After two years you may sell your land. Most members continue to invest.

The land is leased at a non-speculative price to farmers who restore biodiversity, soil and water management.


Some quotes from LvO Website:

Our ambition

Land van Ons must become the basis for a new 'ecological grid' for agricultural land, a large area of responsibly used land that forms the foundation of sustainable biodiversity.

Food production and stimulating biodiversity in the countryside really are compatible. The countryside should be more than a place for windmills, distribution centers and solar farms. We want as natural a small-scale landscape as possible instead of production meadows and fields. Photo: Buckwheat and Huttentut, LvO


Together“ with the farmer, we make sustainable choices in the form of crops, the way of planting, designing and managing the fields. In this way, more places are created where there is a rich soil life and shelter for all kinds of plants, animals and insects. By providing the fields with trees, hedges and shrubs, our landscape becomes more diverse and you can once again marvel at what you see.


Natural areas will automatically benefit from this. Our goal: own 15% of all agricultural land in the Netherlands, managed responsibly. A big task, but not impossible if everyone helps to buy (square) meters!


Why should we own it ourselves?

Politics is about the short term. For decades, policy reports have been made to make agriculture more nature-friendly, but it hardly gets off the ground. Why wait on the sidelines, when together we have the potential to make a change.

Let's take matters into our own hands! When something is your property, you are responsible. You are more involved. You will understand better what is going on. We believe that this will lead to behavioral change among citizens. The fact that this idea is catching on is evident from the growth in the number of participants. We started mid-November 2019. At the end of December 2019 we had 700 participants and now (spring 2023) the count is over 24,000!


Making an impact: from planning to operation

We buy land and find a farmer. We stop things like fertilizer injections and pesticides. Together with participants, we analyze the soil: how can we increase biodiversity here and encourage sustainable agriculture? We then make a plan for the redevelopment of the piece of land."


Because sustainability requires a long-term vision, we set up long-term studies, together with universities, research institutes and participants who have knowledge and interest in regenerative agriculture. The management plan resulting from such studies provides the basis of how a plot is farmed. Land van Ons comes up with a design, sometimes with the renting farmer, and pays for its implementation. The renting farmer manages and works the plot based on the vision we have drawn up together. We monitor developments in biodiversity and the landscape. The entire process is educational for all concerned, and often area farmers come to respect the regenerative practices.”


An attractive farmland

“Our agricultural practices make farmland attractive again for all kinds of insects, birds, mammals, plants and life forms in the soil:


What do we stop?

• Chemical crop protection

• Chemical extermination of plants

• Injection of slurry

• Use of fertilizer

• Use of ryegrass monocultures

• Intensive mowing policy


What are we going for?

• Restore hedges, canals, hedgerows

• Fertilization adapted to the need

• Restore temperature gradients


• Crop rotation

• Deliberate cluttering (leave dead wood, hothouses, shelters)

• Prevent compaction of the soil

• Restore mineral balance

• Restore soil acidity

• Periods of rest


Photo: In addition to drawing down CO2, tree planting helps prevent sinking of ground, an important consideration in the Netherlands.



And then?

Our land remains cultivated land: land that is worked by people and where products are grown for our daily existence. Whether it is hay or grain, potatoes, vegetables or fruit, a meadow, a field, an orchard or a food forest; the options are great.

Ecologyforms the basis for the development of the land. Complicated? No, acting ecologically is simply using your mind: for all life on earth, it is about food, safety and reproduction. We will organize this for every piece of land that we acquire.” See LandvanOns.nl.


Farmers Defence Force

Some farmers in the Netherlands feel threatened by the climate measures to be taken. They have organized themselves into Farmers Defense Force.

With the inverted Dutch flag as a symbol, they are waging fierce protests with roadblocks and other actions with hundreds of tractors and other large equipment. The climate talks with the farmers are very difficult due to fundamental differences of opinion about the solution of, among other things, the nitrogen crisis, ownership of the land and their ability to make independent decisions.


Extinction Rebellion.

A global environmental activist initiative is Extinction Rebellion. “We are people from all over the country, of different ages and backgrounds. What unites us is a deep concern for the climate and ecological crisis and life on Earth. We are grandparents, parents and children who are part of an international movement that fights for a livable and just planet. With the demand to immediately stop all fossil subsidies, XR has blocked an important traffic artery to The Hague several times. Many well-known Dutch people are now joining. For example, the internationally renowned actress Carice van Houten was arrested together with about 1,500 other demonstrators at the last blockade of 27 May. See www.extinctionrebellion.nl

Personal development environmental awareness.

I myself became a member of LandvanOns at the beginning of 2020 and invest in square meters every year. My attention to the environment was triggered by the release of the book: The Limits to Growth[1] (The Limits to Growth: a global challenge) the 1972 Club of Rome report on the predicted exhaustion of the earth. During my more than 40-year career as a (personal injury) lawyer in combination with motherhood, there was less room to actively participate in climate change activities. In the early 1980s I once assisted a client who wanted to hold a neighboring chemical company liable for the health damage, premature births, to her flock of sheep in connection with the emission of toxic substances. We had to close the case early because we couldn't get the evidence together. At the time, we lacked sufficient financial scope to refute the extensive expert reports of the chemical concern and the time was not yet ripe for that. Of course, I try to reduce my footprint wherever possible. For example: No car, but bicycles or public transport, rarely meat, no "fast fashion" but sustainable and honest clothing. Minimal use of plastic. No unnecessary stuff. Participation in Landvanons etc. But that is not enough to offer my (grand)children a safe future. At the end of 2023 I will end my law practice. That gives room to be more active. I look forward to that. The Urgenda Foundation has a group “Grandparents for the climate”. On May 22, they co-signed a full-page advertisement in the NRC national quality newspaper containing a Brand Letter to the Cabinet. The end of the letter reads: “You have been talking about abolishing fossil subsidies for twenty years, but the subject is swept off the table every time. Further delay is now really impossible to explain. It is unfair and contrary to the 'polluter pays' principle. Eliminating fossil subsidies completely is low-hanging fruit; it makes billions available for a just transition, in which we can share the benefits and the burdens fairly. It also provides clarity to companies. It keeps the Netherlands healthy, innovative and creative. Time to put words into action. Stop fossil subsidies.”

Rochester.

I have visited Rochester a few times since 2022.

The most impressive thing is the enormous space, the overwhelming greenery, the beautiful old often single trees, the clean air (writtenjust before our Code Purple air advisory!) and the nice people. The absence of the kilometre-long traffic jams that are present daily in the Netherlands is also special.

I am surprised by how few cyclists take advantage of the good weather, and by the relative lack of public transport. Almost everything is aimed at transport by car: the layout of the city, the wide asphalt roads. Netherlands People's Insane Bicycle Tradition 🇳🇱 - Explore Europe - YouTube

I am also surprised about the apparent lack of knowledge about the urgency of climate change and the common conception that actions of individuals do not make a significant difference.

For example, in beautiful avenues I often see dead lawns that look like artificial grass and the whole maintenance circus around it with unhealthy pesticides, noisy machines and water-guzzling blades of grass. Well!

Rochester June 6, 2023

Tonny Willenborg

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