By Carey Brown
Nestled in the beautiful countryside of the Netherlands, sit many different farming operations. They vary across the country and it is notable to see how such a small country can provide so many different products in so many different ways.
During the 4-day Congress in the Netherlands I was able to attend many different tours but the one I found the most interesting was called “Much More than Agriculture”. This tour focused on Dutch farmers who had other businesses that complemented their farms. These stops included things like nature management, recreation, childcare and care farms. Currently over 25% of farmers have extra income on the farm from these types of activities.
The care farm is what caught my attention the most. Maybe it was because of the passion that exuded from the farm owners, Greet Cazemier and Bas Hofman. Greet had retired as a psychiatric nurse at a large care institution and was interested in how she could give better care to people with intellectual and/or psychiatric disabilities. They were already farming and it only made sense to Greet to open up their farm to those she had spent her career caring for. There are hundreds of care farms in the Netherlands and while they provide a great social responsibility for their communities, it also brings in extra income for the farm.
The farm, Golden Raand, currently has 70 dairy cows, a garden and the make 20 different ice creams from the milk on the farm. They also own a coffee and tea room in a nearby town, Bedum . They care for up to 80 clients at any given time. Clients can range from children to the elderly and most care farms include a mix of different ages and disabilities.
This option for those clients that meet the qualifications is a great way to connect the society with rural agriculture. Those with disabilities are able to come to the farm daily and learn more about agriculture and life skills that they will be able to use throughout their life. Each client is tasked with roles that fit their needs and while there, they also receive the medical care that they need. The end result for clients is daily care coupled with higher self-esteem, independence, personal responsibility.
The Netherlands does an exceptional job with care farms in their country and leads the way (along with Norway) with over 1,000 farms. That is a large increase considering that just over 20 years ago, there were less than 80. The government took notice of them and has facilitated in the development of this sector starting in 2000.
In the end this ag based opportunity provides a health and social service to the client, the government claims training, education and well-being of its citizens leading to economic strengthening for the country, and farmers benefit from the extra income and labor opportunities. In addition insurance companies have a lower cost option for day care. The diversification efforts are all around you in the Netherlands, they truly are a small country with big solutions.