September 10, 2018

World’s first floating farm to open in Rotterdam

Filed under: Animals,Dutch first,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 10:30 am

The world’s first ‘floating dairy farm’ will open its doors in Rotterdam’s Merwehaven port this year, built by Dutch property company Beladon. It will feature 40 Meuse-Rhine-Issel cows (brown spotted, so not the Frisian cows in the picture), milked by robots.

The sustainability idea behind the project is that there is less and less good ground to produce food, while the world population continues to grow and demand more from their food. Built-up urban areas don’t exactly seem like the most sensible places to run farms, but reducing the distance food travels before it reaches consumers’ plates makes environmental sense as it reduces transport pollution.

The Floating Farm intends to produce fresh milk and healthy products, as well as provide tours, education and research.


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October 18, 2014

Ms ‘Hen the Rooster’ new chicken boss of the Netherlands

Filed under: Animals,Weird by Branko Collin @ 1:20 pm

chicken-branko-collinStarting next year Ms Hennie de Haan will become the new chairperson of the Poultry Farmers’ Union of the Netherlands, Telegraaf reports.

In itself this is not interesting news, but if you understand Dutch you’ll realise her name means ‘Hen the Rooster’. Never was there a poultry farmers’ union’s chairperson with a more fitting name, I imagine.

Ms De Haan told AD that she hadn’t even noticed the funny pairing at first: “Well, I’ve had this name for 45 years now. You don’t often stop to contemplate your own name. My partner had to point out [how remarkable this is]. […] Usually chicken farming is discussed in terms of the environment and the treatment of animals. If my name causes a smile […] I consider that a bonus.”

A popular go-to person for the Dutch press whenever a plane threatens to fall out of the sky is the former chairperson of the Association of Dutch Commercial Pilots, Benno Baksteen, whose last name means ‘brick’.

Every year popular radio DJs Coen & Sander collect the funniest names they can find and crown one of them the ‘shame name’ of the year. Two weeks ago that award went to Wil Helmes, which sounds like the title of the Dutch anthem, ‘Wilhelmus’. Number 2 was Ben Bouten, which means ‘off to poo’. Third place went to Leen Kleingeld, which means ‘borrow small change’.

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September 28, 2014

Potato pop-up store opens in Amsterdam

Filed under: Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 11:20 am

aardappelmannetjes-joost-vd-toorn-uair01Quick, what is the world’s foremost potato exporting country? Yes, it’s the Netherlands, a country that exports almost twice the amount of potatoes it grows, leading France by just a few fries (which are Belgian anyway).

Enough of the FAOSTAT fueled statistics. Yesterday a Pieperboetiek (potato boutique) opened on the Jan Evertsenstraat in Amsterdam. Modern Farmer writes:

Between 26 September and 11 October, 25 tons of potatoes will parade through Amsterdam on big farm trucks. […] The pop-up will offer a wide and colourful variety of potatoes. “At first we were planning to have 30 types, but then some breeds got sick. So, it’s going to be 20 types,” says Felicia Alberding, a freelance journalist who is teaming up with potato farmers in organizing this event.

To make the pop-up more potato-y, there will naturally be an array of potato-related activities. The theatre team Superhallo will perform ‘Knol d’Amour’ which, they say, is both an ode to the potato and a delicious love story. The theatre makers will also host a fry potato party that lets people choose, peel and fry their own potatoes while they are playing music.

There will also be a tattoo artist who uses potato-based ink and both vodka and carrot-and-spinach tea are served, according to the store’s Facebook page.

The boutique was the idea of farmer Krispijn van den Dries from the Noordoostpolder area who wants to breed a better understanding between farmers and consumers. Felicia Alberding: “In most countries, farmers have become invisible over the past years. That anonymity is one of the reasons many people don’t value food and how it’s made any more.”

(Photo of De Aardappelmannetjes by Joost van den Toorn by Uair01, some rights reserved; this is a sculpture in Zoetermeer made from rocks and gilded bronze. It depicts two potato figures.)

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June 16, 2014

Eccentric farmers can kiss privacy goodbye

Filed under: Animals by Branko Collin @ 9:29 am

calves-orangemasterIn a fascinating article by anthropologist Lizzy van Leeuwen in De Groene Amsterdammer last month, she describes how farmers’ association LTO, together with the Dutch government, has set up a system for detecting and dealing with early warning signs of the mistreatment of farm animals.

A database kept by Vetrouwensloket Welzijn Landbouwhuisdieren (the confidential office for the well-being of farm animals) tracks symptoms such as excess deaths and diseases, hurt and crippled animals, parasites, poor development of young animals, and so on.

Nobody could object to such a system, but the database also registers information about the farmers themselves based on the idea that unhappy farmers make unhappy farm animals. This information includes attendance at meetings and the number of friendships a farmer maintains. Do farmers stop answering their phones and do their relationships fail? It is all registered.

If the signals reach a certain danger level, a team is sent to the farmers in question to try and help them get back on track. Magazine Veeteelt ran a headline in 2010 that aptly describes the duality of this approach: “Animal neglect can happen to anyone. [This system] prevents a negative image of the industry.”

The result is that some farmers—the loners, the ‘known’ problem cases—are pushed into extreme transparency through a finely mazed network of ‘reporters’ or ‘snitches’, depending on who you talk to. These are often the ‘erfbetreders’, a Dutch word I did not know until yesterday meaning ‘those who walk onto the farmyard’—the people who have to be on the farm for business and who rat out the farmer on the side.

Van Leeuwen’s four page article goes into incredible detail on how farmers are viewed by the general public. She hypothesizes that the Dutch have lost contact with farming world. Between 1947 and 1990 the percentage of people working in agriculture dropped from 20% to 4%. The general public are now in the habit of seeing farmers through isolated incidents, such as the 2011 tragedy in which a farmer from Brummen, Gelderland killed about 100 cows with a tractor and then killed himself. Van Leeuwen speaks of “a trend of viewing farmers as professional animal abusers”.

The result is that farmers have not just become an out-group, but in order to close the ranks they have decided to nip rare and extreme cases of animal abuse in the bud by creating their own out-group of lonely and eccentric farmers. Ironically, this does not seem to apply to factory farming, a practice to which pretty much everybody turns a blind eye.

Van Leeuwen’s article, “De weg van alle vlees—dierverwaarlozing op de boerderij“, is available on the web (in Dutch), but unfortunately behind a pay wall.

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July 7, 2012

Oldest farm in Western Europe almost torn down

Filed under: Architecture,History by Branko Collin @ 11:36 am

Farmer Piet Scheepers from Best, Noord Brabant, simply did not know that this barn of his was so old. He figured 300 years, tops. And because it was difficult to work in due to the low ceiling, he was ready to tear the building down, six years ago.

Research by local historian Dick Zweers has since put a stop to those plans, Omroep Brabant reports. Zweers found out that the wood in the building was from 1263: “The first thing I noticed that this used to be the sort of house where there was always a fire, people were always in the same room, they always had a need for warm water—you can tell by those sooted beams.” He adds: “There have been changes, but the construction is in essence still the same.”

Scheepers had already acquired a permit for demolition, now the government wants to turn the barn—which currently houses calves—into a state monument, and is willing to invest 100,000 euro in renovation, as is the provincial government.

Omroep Brabant calls this the oldest farm still in use in Western Europe. Back in November, Zweers was still hedging his bets: “Great Britain has also got a lot of old stuff.”

(Photo: Google Street View)

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March 15, 2011

‘Organic farming can be deceiving’

Filed under: Animals,Food & Drink,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 4:11 pm

When it comes to environmentally friendly products, we tend to collectively think that they’re automatically better than conventional products without even checking. The media and marketing play on these warm and fuzzy feelings all the time, which tends to be echoed by people whose need to believe always seems to outweigh checking the facts. Yes, these are nasty generalizations and yes, I too want to believe, but I don’t — yet.

After an aquaintance had posted an ‘I’m better than you because I eat less meat’ blurb on a mailing list, I promptly responded with our posting on producing meat is actually less damaging to the environment than producing cotton T-shirts. I’ll bet you she still buys cotton T-shirts.

However, I do agree that the video linked below seems to gloss over the issue of pesticides and other interesting comments the farmers were trying to make, but the deception is real: organic products have their own issues and according to everything I have read from several countries as an ordinary consumer, they are very often the same or only slightly better than conventional products.

And yes, killing animals is still killing animals, I got that part.

Watch the short video report: ‘Organic meat not better for the environment’.

(Link: Radio Netherlands)

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March 24, 2008

Farmers to replace cows for worms

Filed under: Animals,Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 11:47 am

If it is up to Zeeland’s bait producer Topsy Baits, farmers in the North of the country will swap their cows for worms. These worms are necessary according to Topsy Baits CEO Bert Meijering to replace the tons of fishmeal used every year to feed farmed fish. Apparently, for every kilo of farmed salmon, five kilos of wild fish have to be turned into fishmeal, and fishmeal is needed for fish to reach maturity. Meijering claims that using farmed ragworms instead can give the same result.

Meijering’s firm has built a farm in Wales which will raise 50,000 tons of ragworms each year, enough to produce 500,000 tons of fishmeal replacement once mixed with soy, wheat or peas. Currently, the firm is in talks with a farmers’ organisation in Groningen and Friesland to cooperate on his next few farms. According to Meijering, 500,000 tons equals the amount of extra fishmeal needed every year. Building ragworm farms could create between 1,000 and 1,500 jobs in the region.

Via Dagblad van het Noorden (Dutch). Source image: Topsy Baits.

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