John van Paassen: ‘You can’t stop, but you can change’

Various pig farmers have participated in stoppage schemes in recent years. John van Paassen from Deurne in Brabant is one of the pig farmers who has gone a different way. After having pigs for 37 years, he and his wife Mieke decided to participate in the subsidy scheme for restructuring pig farms in 2021.

Former pig farmers John and Mieke van Paassen have taken a new direction. Mieke van Paassen now works in the care of children with disabilities. John van Paassen is still involved in agriculture.


Talk to colleagues and also think about the possibilities that a purchase arrangement provides

John van Paassen, former pig farmer in Deurne

What made you participate in the purchase scheme?

‘The pig industry went well. We always modernized it so that we kept up with the times and the company was ready for succession or sale. Our four children had no interest in taking over. We have always offered them the opportunity to develop in the direction they want. They chose a different path. The discussion about society and the political climate about the pig sector and the market value of our company made us think in 2021.’

What was the deciding factor?

‘With the old purchase arrangement, we had the opportunity to say goodbye to our company, but continue to live in the familiar location. It was crucial for us. In addition, we were able to keep our arable and green energy branches, and one of our sons was given the opportunity to expand his technology business. It was a real advantage of the old purchase system. That’s why I’m skeptical of the new procurement system, where people are taken away from their place of birth or residence.’

How did you experience the process?

“It all happened far too quickly. You have to make as many decisions in three months as you would in thirty years, even on subjects you’ve never thought about before. Looking back now, it was the right business decision, albeit too quickly The time pressure is a major disadvantage of the buyback scheme.

‘It was also a hard period for my wife and colleague. A difficult valley that you all have to go through because you are taken out of your natural rhythm. In addition, you get the – in my eyes negative – label ‘plug’. A really bad word.’

Why do you think prop is a bad word?

‘If you change jobs in business, it is called a career change. If a farmer has to do something else, he is a stopper. The word stop doesn’t cover the strain for me. I think you can’t stop, but you can change. Someone who has been busy with his business seven days a week all his life is in a rhythm that he can’t get out of. Almost all former pig farmers I speak to retain their roots in the agricultural sector, just with a different interpretation.’

Are you still working in the agricultural sector?

‘For a while I did nothing to let everything sink in, but doing nothing didn’t make me happy. I had to look very hard to find my footing again. Managed. I have an agricultural branch, produce green electricity, rent out real estate, am chairman of the fertilizer processing companies Demac and Kumac and sell drip irrigation through the company Daar Agrotechnics owned by my son Daan and his partner Aron Willems.

‘I enjoy the variety, and I like that I can continue to use my pig knowledge in the board positions. I decide myself how many hours I work, so there is also time for a grandparent’s day’.

You are talking about drip irrigation. What is it?

“Here, plants get water in the root zone via thin pipes that are laid in the ground and connected to a pump. This way of watering ensures more economical water and energy consumption, better utilization of fertilizer via water and less waste due to weather effects such as wind and evaporation from the sun. Drip irrigation was mainly used in greenhouse horticulture, but has become more popular in recent years and is now also used in field cultivation, arable farming and tree cultivation.’

Where does your interest in this come from?

“There is less and less space to grow food. In order to satisfy all mouths, the production per hectare is increased. My farmer’s heart still beats, so I would like to contribute to that. The fact that nature is now deteriorating is, in my experience, 95 percent due to climate change and 5 percent to nitrogen. Nature receives a huge blow from drought and heat. Optimizing irrigation in agriculture is a theme that offers many opportunities.’

How do you think the government is dealing with this?

‘My belief is that the more the government harasses and the more expensive food becomes, the more opportunities there are for entrepreneurs. I can clearly see that happening. The demand for food is increasing, while production is becoming increasingly difficult due to laws and regulations, e.g. The supply and demand market is changing. The harder the government pushes, the more you will earn as a farmer. If you think like that, you hardly look at politics.’

What would you like to tell other pig farmers?

‘Don’t wait. Always prepare some future scenarios for your business and take them far. You don’t know which way the penny will fall in the coming years. The moment you need to shift gears may be sooner than you think. Also talk to colleagues who are in the same situation. There is much to gain. Also, consider the options that a purchase arrangement provides.

“Furthermore, the protection of interests in the pig sector has never been organized as well as it is now. Many other sectors are envious of the short lines in pig farming. As a pig breeder, you have to take care of that.’

Jack-of-all-trades

John van Paassen (57) and his wife Mieke (58) have had a successful closed pig farm in Deurne in Brabant for 37 years. Their stables housed 450 sows and 3,500 slaughter pigs. In 2021, the pig farmers decided to participate in the Subsidy scheme for the restructuring of pig farms. The space in their farm is now filled with, among other things, arable farming and the production of green electricity. Son Daan has an agricultural technology company on site. In addition to his work on the pig farm, Van Paassen held leadership positions in pig breeding, such as ZLTO, Topigs Norsvin and Mestac. He still sits on the board of the fertilizer processors Kumac and Demac.

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