September 30, 2023

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Farmers say: 'We just hope we can stay here' |  Currently

Farmers say: ‘We just hope we can stay here’ | Currently

To protect the vulnerable nature, the government must significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen. This has serious consequences for livestock breeders. The number of cows and pigs should be reduced. How do farmers deal with this message and how do they see the future? talks to and follows several farmers in different situations this summer. Today: a farmer from and born in Gelderland.

Just when farmer Martijn te Brake wants to explain why his company is so environmentally friendly, a large spotted woodpecker flies into the sky and screams loudly. He laughs: “Well, that’s why.”

Woodpeckers fly in the direction of Natura 2000 Knownelle area. It is located next to the farm of Tea Brick and his wife Ursula. The nature reserve in Achterhoek is the reason Te Brake practices its profession in a more nature-friendly way.

“We are very spread out. We have one cow per hectare, which is 2.5 cows per hectare.” Te Brake covers 65 hectares of land.

In addition, all kinds of herbs and alfalfa grow on his lawns and not just perennial ryegrass, as often happens on intensive dairy farms. “Bees and other insects are suffocating there,” T-Brick says. “It’s also the only meadows where I still encounter locusts. Deer usually have their young there.”

“If you walk along the edge of the trench with an ecologist, he or she will absolutely love it,” says T-Brick. “It looks like all kinds of things and that’s what’s going on here.”

With some compensation here and there for the eco-friendly way it is grown and by carefully considering the necessary investments, Te Brake Farm is profitable. “We can keep well and not lack for anything.”

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The ancient landscape of Achterhoek

With the phrase “that’s still the case here,” Te Brake refers to the landscape planning of Achterhoek. Where land consolidation in the rest of Holland began in the middle of the last century, this part of Achterhoek was underdeveloped.

This land consolidation made it possible to clamp down on the countryside, which was more efficient for the farmer.

“They stopped here part of the land collecting,” T-Brick explains. This preserved the look of the old bokage. You see wooded banks and ditches and here and there a tree in the meadow. “I think Holland looked like this a hundred years ago,” T-Brick smiled.

Martijn te Brake at work in his stable.

Martijn te Brake at work in his stable.

Martijn te Brake at work in his stable.

picture: duty function

Waiting for nitrogen decision

Although Te Brake Farms is in harmony with nature, it is uncertain whether the nitrogen problem will also have consequences for him. “Every now and then something screams, but we don’t really know anything,” says his wife Ursula.

And her husband adds, “What is already known? Where will it affect and to whom? It will be addressed urgently, but we have been working on it for more than three years.”

He believes that “in The Hague” they see his farm as an example to other farmers, but that is also not certain. “We’re not losing sleep over it, but I just want to keep doing business.”

“For now, I won’t do anything and then we’ll see”

Martijn te Brake, farmer in Achterhoek

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Te Brake wants to expand the space where his calves are located. A barn where small stock is kept could also be a big change. “But if I modify a shed, I want it to be for twenty years. Now we’re handicap in that. Right now, I don’t do anything and then we’ll see.”

The farmer from Wolde is dependent on the county of Gelderland, which has said it will not be obligated to expropriate farmers. There have been discussions with the county about the nitrogen approach before, but it is unclear how it will proceed.

Growth in the number of cows is not necessary for Ashterhawk farms. “Then we have to buy additional phosphate rights and expand the barn,” Ursula explains. “We don’t get a permit for that because we’re near Natura 2000.” “You’d better do it in a nature-friendly way and try to do it as best you can,” her husband adds.

“As it is now, we are satisfied and we will make it happen,” continues Ursula. “We just hope we can continue farming here.”