I’ve heard that organic farming is good for the ocean beds, but I’ve never heard of Organic farming on ocean beds. That is until my recent visit to the organic Zeewolde farm in South Netherlands. The farm visit was part of the Food Security and Climate Change Conference. The farm was established in 1988 on land reclaimed from the Zuidersee. The Zuidersee works enabled “huge land reclamations” and featured a closure dike some 65 km long. Once desalinated, the soils on the reclaimed land were found to be particularly fertile and suited for cow grazing and agricultural production.
There are only three permanent staff cultivating the 156 hectares of farmland. Ten part-time Slovakian farm workers and their families join the farm team for twelve weeks a year. Mr Boerma, the farmer, explained that all his agricultural activity is supported by satellite technology, which identifies and removes the invasive plants in the crops. If you look at the pictures included in this article, you will notice that all the crops are planted in perfectly straight lines through the use of satellite technology.
The farm transitioned to organic farming in 2017 and cultivates spinach, onions, carrots and potatoes, of which 80% of produce is exported. Interestingly enough, the Zeewolde farm exports most of its onions to Africa. The Netherlands government does not subsidise organic farming. Mr Boerma said that the farm’s profit has decreased since the shift from conventional to organic farming. However, he said he would never farm any other way again. The farm receives a subsidy to partake in the bird management programme.
The farm is solar-powered and has two turbine windmills. The power these turbine windmills generate is sold to the government for additional income. I inquired about what type of risk insurance the farm has. I was surprised when Mr Boerma said the farm is not insured. He explained that there is little risk involved in farming, so he does not require crop failure or theft insurance.
Mr Boerman, however, did comment that he has experienced some climate variations that might result in future challenges. When the farm was established, no irrigation was needed on the farm. In 1993 he started to irrigate his crops, and now he has four irrigation pivots. As there is plenty of water in the Netherlands, it is not a concern. He also mentioned that the spinach crop was less successful than expected due to warmer days last year. This might be an example of how climate change affects farming activities across the globe.