‘Power to the piper’: Province invests millions in local food

Did you know that food travels an average of 30,000 kilometers before reaching our plates? So the province of North Holland wants us to eat closer to home and is investing 2.7 million euros in local food and sustainable agriculture. What does this mean for North Holland regional products?

Pieter Grude from Middenbeemster has a hundred cows and produces one hundred kilos of Beemster cheese a day. He sells almost all of that cheese at his own farm shop or at Schemmer’s Organic Shop. Initially he sold some cheese to a middleman who sold it to tourist shops. When it collapsed during the pandemic, Groot stopped doing it. He likes it very much. “Selling directly to customers gives me the most satisfaction.”

The province invests

The province of Noord-Holland wants to achieve the same direct contact between farmer and consumer as in Middenbeemster in the coming years. In 2023 and 2024, the provincial council will invest 2.4 million euros to make North Holland food production more sustainable. That money is earmarked for, among other things, North Holland projects that promote plant-based food production, prevent food waste and ensure food from the region.

For example, The Farm Kitchen received a grant of almost €100,000 to build a mobile kitchen on farmer John Hamm’s farm in Nieuve-Vennep. The aim is to process vegetables directly from the land into company lunches. The Farm Kitchen eventually aims to serve 3,000 lunches a day.

Arjen Borhorst on his goats – NH News

In recent years, many farmers in the region have taken the initiative to sell their produce directly to consumers. So is Texel sheep farmer Arjen Borhorst. He sells his lamb at his own farm shop and at a local butcher. “We have a wonderful product here in Texel, why are we still eating lamb from Australia?”

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He hopes the money from the province ends up in the right place. “Please don’t join another ‘diet link’ program.”

The cover does not come by default

The transition is not easy for farmers who mainly export their produce abroad. Also, some farmers are not interested in selling their produce in the region.

For example, Simon Wilms, a farmer in Noordkop, grows about 800 tons of onions a year, most of which he exports to Senegal. “We produce more onions in the Netherlands than we eat,” he says by phone.

However, he also wants to sell his onions in Dutch supermarkets. “They come from New Zealand at Albert Heinz in Anna Paulona. I sometimes think: I’ll put them in a bag and drive myself to Albert Heinz.

Simon Wilms grows barley in addition to onions – NH News

But it is almost impossible. He must first clean the onion because the consumer wants the tail and outer skin of the onion removed. The middleman now does the job, and if Wilms wants to take over, he’ll have to invest in machinery he can’t really afford. “Then you have to compete with more established names.”

It’s not an unknown problem that onions are sent from Wilms to Senegal, while the next-door supermarket has onions from New Zealand. Our food travels an average of 30,000 kilometers before reaching the fridge.

Intermediaries

The province’s plan to eat more food from the region is part of a national approach launched by Minister Carola Schouten in 2020. During the ‘Digital National Trade Mission’, Schouten spoke to various farmers about sustainable agriculture.

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Farmers later complained to Schouten that the French and Italians were generally more proud of their local produce, while the Dutch were ignorant of what was grown here.

The proud farmer of North Holland lives in Ooperdos. The hero stem is the driving force behind the potato, Operdoser Ronde. Although he hadn’t heard of the province’s plan, he himself had been shortening his chain for some time. He left ‘The Greenery’, an organization that buys products from farmers and resells them. “I don’t like having to sell everything to them, I’m not allowed to decide anything myself.”

Hero Tribe with Operdoser Ronde – Maurice Blau

Now he sells five-kilogram crates of Oberdoser Rondes by the roadside. For consumers in general, but also for restaurants like De Libreje in Swollen. Stamm can now decide for himself what he does with his product, and he likes it a lot better. “All those middlemen cost money, and now I’m making a lot of money from them.”

What is local?

However not all growers of North Holland regional produce feel like shortening the chains. De Boer grows and processes around 200 hectares of coal in his own yard. De Boer packages and labels kale for the supermarket, and chops the kale for salads and spring rolls.

About half goes overseas because you’re talking about significant volumes and it’s very difficult to sell domestically. De Boer isn’t losing sleep over it. “We are proud of our products and we don’t care who buys them. Whether it’s from the village, from the city or from abroad, last Christmas we got a Christmas card from Germany, they never ate. Delicious spiky cabbage. It will make you proud.”

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Van de Boer doesn’t have to be local. “We live in a big world. If I load it on the truck today, it will be in the store in Germany tomorrow. And that’s short chains.”

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