Because the government has not written a perspective letter for agriculture, we have invited people to do so. Today, new farmer Howard Koster describes how he and his partner create perspective for themselves and their farm.
Dear farmers, dear readers,
We at Burgerboerderij de Biesterhof are so-called side entrants. From other life paths, we have changed course and this year we started a farm with a small community on 25 hectares of land belonging to the land van Ons community association. Last week we finalized our business plan. We create perspective for ourselves and our farm based on a number of major social themes. I would like to share that perspective with you here. Not because we claim to have the answer to the challenges in our food system, but because it is important to us. This is our own site- and context-specific response to what is going on in society.
If you can get something out of this, great! If all this is not at all for you, good friends.
At Biesterhof, we strive for (bio)diversity instantly multifunctional agriculturesystem that climate adaptation is and the transition to vegetable proteinsupport consumption. By practice that regenerating to our environment (environmental, social and economic) we provide products and services to our communities where short value chains provide us with a sustainable income and enable us to generate a high degree of cycle to obtain.
Land van Ons started in 2019 to increase biodiversity in the Dutch agricultural landscape. At Biesterhof we use different ‘agroforestry’ systems and we create nature on 10% of our surface. Nature-inclusive agriculture enables us to benefit from ecosystem services that nature provides us (natural pest control, nutrient cycling, carbon storage, water regulation).
Agricultural land can mean much more to us than just producing biomass. In addition to the aforementioned ecosystem services, a diverse nature-inclusive agriculture is also suitable for cultural, educational and recreational activities, to which an income model can be linked. Located just outside Nijmegen, Biesterhof offers healthy food, workshops, nature connections and farm lunches and dinners to our visitors.
The world is warming rapidly, and in the Netherlands it is accompanied by increasingly heavy downpours, alternating with increasingly long periods of drought and heat. In addition to crops such as sorghum that do well in this changing climate, the thousands of trees we plant will play an important role in making Biesterhof climate-proof. Trees retain water when it falls and can access groundwater when it is dry. Trees prevent evaporation through the wind shelter they provide, and last but not least: trees produce food!
The Netherlands has a national protein strategy that aims to shift the balance from animal to vegetable proteins. They also want to increase the Dutch’s self-sufficiency in vegetable proteins. De Biesterhof contributes to this transition by producing nuts as a high-quality substitute for animal proteins. In addition, we grow protein-rich crops such as lupine between our rows of trees. We reduce our dependence on livestock manure by growing green manure legumes.
“Improving the production, regulation and support of ecosystem services based on soil health to have a positive impact not only on the environment, but also on the social and economic components of sustainable food production.” This is the definition of regenerative agriculture that we use at Biesterhof, to which we add that our explicit goal is to make our products available to all strata of the population!
Farmers’ profit margins have been declining for decades, resulting in far-reaching mechanization, economies of scale and rural exodus. Short chains strive to restore the direct link between producer and consumer, thereby giving the farmer a fair price. The location reduces the ‘footprint’ of our food system and, in addition, increased contact between farmer and citizen will facilitate a better understanding of this system. De Biesterhof uses direct sales through a farm shop, we process our products in our farm lunches and dinners, collaborate with local sustainable initiatives (breweries, bakers and food processors) and sell our products through Land van On’s webshop.
We aim for a closed system as possible. On our farm we do not import feed for animals and chickens, and sheep only play a role where they contribute to the agro-ecosystem. Products are sold as locally as possible, and livestock manure is exchanged for straw and wheat at the nearby organic milk producer. The Soil&Compost Lab forms the beating heart of the farm, where all residual flows are processed into compost and flow back to the farm. By creating a well-functioning agro-ecosystem with care, knowledge and attention, we significantly reduce the necessary inputs, while keeping production at a good level.
And last but not least
With our trial year behind us and the above deepening themes under our belt, we have convinced Land van Ons of our perspective. We can try it at Biesterhof in the coming years. You are invited.
Howard Koster (40) leases 25 hectares of agricultural land in Millingen aan de Rijn (GD) together with his partner Claudi Rudorf. Together they were selected by the citizens’ cooperative Land van Ons, which aims to make agricultural land more biodiverse with money from members and investors. Koster has applied for a SKAL certificate for his land and therefore wants to invest in organic farming. Farm De Biesterhof is currently no more than a house with a plot of 25 hectares, so Koster is starting from scratch.
Koster studied organic farming at Wageningen University and met Rudorf during his studies. It was a shared dream to one day run their own farm. Koster and Rudorf previously lived in Berlin. For Agrio, the publisher of this website, Koster talks about establishing a viable, sustainable farm.