Onlangs was in ‘Farmers weekly’, de Engels(talig)e versie van het vakblad ‘Boerderij’, een interview met mij te lezen. Hieronder lees je de tekst.
Carolien van de Kreeke gives us a glimpse of countryside life in the Netherlands.
What sort of farm do you live on?
My husband and I farm on a crop farm of 50 ha with potatoes, sugar beets, wheat, grass seeds and chicory near Middelburg in the south west of the country. We also own a farm campsite with 25 camp spaces plus two chalets.
How involved are you with the farm?
Very much so. Living and working there is my way of life and I enjoy it every day. Even though my husband, Peter, is responsible for the crops and I run the campsite, we discuss work together as much as possible. During harvest, I drive the tractors. Also I am responsible for the accounting work.
What’s the farming/countryside typically like in your area?
There are some larger units, but most is small-scale. In years gone by, there were plenty of smallholder farms that were self-sufficient, but they are too small to make a living from these days. Hence many farmers now have a job off the farm or earn part of their income from a second business, like tourism or selling products direct to consumers.
How poor or prosperous are farming families in your country?
Most earn an average income. Dairy farming is poor at present; crops vary greatly season tot season. We sometimes say: ‘Work hard, earn little. But we really appreciate the way of life.
What the best thing about living on a farm?
Living space. We also have freedom and the ability to make our own choices. Also, the tranquility – it’s such a nice, quiet place to live. Then, there’s the nature around us, with hares playing on our land and the beautiful sunrises. We also enjoy seeing the changing season and weather – from bright sunshine to bitter cold snow.
What’s the worst thing about living on a farm?
The high seasonal workload, when our days are completely filled – especially the limited quality time we have with our children in this period. During their summer holidays, the time we get to sped together at the farm or out visiting is limited.
What’s the single biggest challenge farmers face where you are?
Dealing with regulations. In the Netherlands many laws and regulations exist which do not benefit the farm business. The rules surrounding fertilisers, for example, have become much more strict, resulting in substantial depletion of te soil – and this is fundamental to our ability to produce crops.
An additional challenge is the image of farmers, which is occasionally, not the most positive. We are sometimes seen as people who harm the natural environment and (too) frequently use pesticides, but this is not a fair portray of us.
We have many opportunities to create a positive image for farming, but as a profession and as individuals we could definitely do better in this respect.
Meanwhile, the weather was always been a challenge, but climate changes and mechanization have made this issue even more complex.
What makes you happy?
The arrival of spring. The winter is rather quiet, with fewer activities on the land and te the campsite closed. In the spring this changes, everything gets going – we enjoy working on the land again and welcome the first visitors to the site.
What makes you angry?
The lack of control we have over the prices we get, which is not dependent on the quality of what we grow, but instead on market forces.
Also the great concern are the high land values wich hamper the growth and development of farms.
Is there equality between the sexes in your country?
Yes, men and women have similar rights and job opportunities (although, in practice, working with machinery and tractors is often still done by men). At our farm, it is a true case of teamwork.
Is farming well supported by your government?
We have had a proliferation of regulations, resulting in an enormous amounts of business registration and reporting. Then there is the detailed registration of campsite visitors.
Tell us something about yourself not many people know
I also work part-time as communication manager at an organisation for wildlife and flora preservation, which is very rewarding given my strong interest and respect for our beautiful landscapes. But being a farmer as well can sometimes give me with a feeling of conflicted interests, since famers and nature preservation organisations might not always share the same point of view.
Find out about Carolien and Peter’s business at www.molenperk.nl