Bio-ring plant farming has been on the rise abroad since the 1990s, but it is also growing in the Netherlands. Zonnegoed uses only vegetable fertilizers and was the first arable Dutch farm to receive the International Quality Mark for Bio-vegetarians. Giving the No Shit Food movement more awareness of veganism.
In May, the arable farm Zonnegoed owned by Joost van Strien and Chris Feickens in Ens, Flevoland, was the first farm in the Netherlands to receive the International Biocyclic Vegan Quality Mark for vegetable cultivation. This means that the farmers operate according to an organic and vegan farming method that does not use production animals.
Instead of animal manure, the entrepreneurs are boosting soil fertility by using compost from a nearby nature reserve and extracts of leguminous plants like alfalfa and alfalfa.
The founder of ring-vegetable farming is the German Adolf Hoops, who has been pioneering his arable farm since 1950. Since the 1990s, arable farmers in Cyprus and Greece and then in Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Romania, the United Kingdom and the United States began to use this method.
Vegetarianism is a relatively new concept in the agricultural sector
The movement is still small in the Netherlands, but vegetable fertilization experiments have been underway at Zonnegoed since 2008. Since 1997 the company that produces, among other things, potatoes, onions, pumpkins, carrots, parsnips and beets, has been operating organically and since 2004 is biodynamic.
Van Strien’s ideal was a mixed farm with crops that could grow with the dung of the animals that ate the forage on the farm. Since growing grains and herbs took up a lot of space for animals, he chose to grow vegetables. He also started working with a cattle rancher.
Farmers opposed the use of manure, because the fodder and straw often came from faraway regions, and organic companies in the Netherlands had to resort to manure, due to the lack of manure.
In 2009, the entrepreneur conducted research with the Louis Polk Institute on the difference between alfalfa and alfalfa on the one hand and chicken manure as spinach fertilizer on the other. Vegetable fertilizers have proven to be a good alternative to chicken manure and have led to a better mineral balance, especially with regard to phosphates.
Mineral runoff decreased because crops remained on the farm and were not left as raw materials for animal feed.
“We didn’t do much at the time, but a couple of years ago we discovered that 80 percent of the straw in our organic manure came from conventional farms and contained a high CFA residue,” van Stren says. “That’s why we decided to completely switch to vegetable fertilizers.”
The farmer admits that the zeitgeist also played a role in the decision, because the vegan menu has really taken off in recent years and consumers are becoming more aware of food production. After some poor results in the 2019 conversion year, Zonnegoed’s returns now look even better.
The Flemish Dutch Network
The arable farm is part of the Network for the Promotion of Organic Ring Farming in Holland and Flanders. Founded in 2018 as part of the International Bio-Circular Botanical Network.
Secretary Joep Petroff explains that the Dutch-Flemish Network is an association with an informal organization whose main objective is knowledge exchange. The Secretary is active in the network as a volunteer overseeing agriculture and sales, with Van Strien involved in overseeing agriculture and sales for large-scale farming.
According to Petrov, biodynamic farming in the Netherlands is on the rise. Zonnegoed forms, as it were, a sign of increased awareness of the plant-based method of farming. “For many people in the agricultural sector, the concept of vegetarianism is still unknown,” says the minister.
According to Van Strien, terms like biotic cycle and vegetation will become popular as more people become familiar with them. It’s a way of producing food that, in his eyes, has a real future.
As far as arable farmers are concerned, reports on ring-vegetarian farming should make it clear that it is not just about eliminating animal manure, but about a cyclical and comprehensive way of working nature that enhances biodiversity and contributes to solving the global food problem.
To raise awareness of veganism, the No Shit Food movement was launched on August 3, which you can read more about on the website noshitfood.nl. The starting signal for this was the first certified onion harvest moved from the ground in Zonnegoed in the first week of August.
Van Strien: “No Shit Food is a new sustainable standard for organic vegetables that are produced using only vegetable fertilizers.”
“Van Steren is a pioneer in biodynamic ring planting”
Researcher Dirk van Apeldoorn from Wageningen University & Research sees ringed plant farming as part of the shift to the new agricultural system advocated by animal and sustainable food systems professor Imke de Boer. Each Dutchman has his own responsibility in the production and consumption of food. Part of the change is the downturn in current livestock, with cows, pigs and chickens on the farm being more mates and fewer production animals. “It is ineffective that we currently use part of our best land for livestock production,” says van Apeldoorn. In addition, there is not enough organic manure available to farmers who are arable for organic farming, while they are required to use 70 percent of the compost. As far as leguminous plants are concerned, they are a good alternative, as they fix nitrogen and release phosphate, which leads to healthier soil life. Fertilizing vegetables is challenging for grains and other crops because they have been raised to require nitrogen-rich fertilizers. This means that the cultivation of arable crops should focus on a future in which there is no excess of manure and cycles can be closed, for example by absorbing nitrogen from the air. Given the current soil conditions, this will take some time. According to Van Apeldoorn, vegan consumers care about how their food is produced, but don’t realize where the compost comes from. Van Stren sees him as a skilled pioneer in biodynamic ring farming and a quality mark as an opportunity to raise awareness on the topic.
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