The Herenboeren community has grown to over 10,000 households in 10 years
Herenboeren Nederland supports citizens to develop nature-driven cooperative Farming Communities. These are mixed farms of around 20 hectares, each supplying 200-270 households (about 500 mouths) with vegetables, fruit, meat and eggs. Since 2013, 14 of these mixed cooperative Farming Communities have been launched across the country.
Another 35 citizens' initiative groups are setting up their own Farming Community. Of these, 9 will most likely start in 2023 (see this map). Next year, the 10th anniversary of Herenboeren Nederland, the Herenboeren community will have grown to more than 10,000 households.
With its rapidly growing nationwide network of farms, Herenboeren demonstrates that the production of our daily food can be different, better and, above all, more sustainable. It sees great opportunities for these cooperative farms where members (citizens) are at the same time owners, entrepreneurs, producers and consumers. The goal is to create 350 Farming Communities, or similar concepts, by 2030.
Accelerating the food transition together
Herenboeren Nederland is also committed to the agricultural and food transition on a broad social level. Because the task we face in the Netherlands is much bigger, deeper and broader. Herenboeren Nederland is actively building an ecosystem of partner organisations to accelerate the transition of the Dutch food chain. Initiatives co-initiated by Herenboeren Nederland are:
- Ground fund Aardpeer, for affordable access to (agricultural) land;
- Boerenraad and Caring Farmers, networks of farmers and gardeners working together on system change in agriculture. Note: Caring Farmers was the winner of the Trouw Sustainable Top 100 last week;
- De Plaatsen and the first physical 'Place' De Kleine Aarde in Boxtel: a knowledge and innovation centre that, for example, will provide citizens and farmers with tools for a (personal) transition to a regenerative food system.
Together with its partner initiatives, Herenboeren Nederland brings sustainable food production closer. It initiates and conducts research, trains farmers and proposes amendments to laws and regulations. Through Caring Farmers and Boerenraad, Herenboeren Nederland also actively engages with the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality about the sustainable transition of the food chain.
Triodos Regenerative Money Centre (TRMC), part of Triodos Bank, supports transition accelerators by putting natural and social returns first, giving pioneering initiatives the chance to grow. TRMC lends to, and invests in, pioneering, ground-breaking initiatives to regenerate our society and our planet. TRMC also donates to social initiatives, even if the outcome is uncertain or cannot be directly expressed in economic value. TRMC already worked with Herenboeren in 2020 and 2021 to establish partner initiative Aardpeer.
A sustainable future starts with the soil
Initiator and managing director Geert van der Veer of Herenboeren Nederland: "Herenboeren aims to enable all citizens in the Netherlands to connect with their food and help make farmland healthy, restore biodiversity and preserve nature for generations to come. Herenboeren does this by establishing and supporting as many nature-driven Farming Communities as possible. But we go beyond that. The agricultural crisis is also linked to our biodiversity crisis, water challenges in the Netherlands, environmental and climate issues and even our health crisis. We need to tackle this holistically together and it starts at the bottom."
Strong match between the mission of Herenboeren and Triodos Regenerative Money Centre
Liesbeth Soer, director of Catalytic Investments at Triodos Regenerative Money Centre: "There is a strong match between the mission of Herenboeren and TRMC. Herenboeren's approach and decisiveness fits the way we look at food transition. We want to both encourage responsible use of (agricultural) land and bring farmers and citizens closer together to reconnect with our food (and a healthy earth). The Herenboeren model is more widely applicable in the Netherlands. Together with the large network and coalition building with the right parties, this ensures that Herenboeren plays an important role in the transition to a healthy food system. We are very happy to support Herenboeren in this phase."
What is a "Farming Community"?
A Farming Community anno 2022 is a small-scale, mixed and nature-driven* farm owned by a cooperative of 200-270 households. The cooperative owners are the direct buyers of the products. The farmer is the agricultural manager. This farmer is employed by Herenboeren Nederland and seconded to the local cooperative. Disappointing harvests are borne by the cooperative, assuring the farmer of a stable and fair income.
A Farming Community is a mixed farm, where most of the labour time goes to growing vegetables, but fruit is also grown and livestock is kept. The farm consists of about 20 ha, of which an average of 4 ha of vegetable crops, 1-2 ha of fruit, 40 pigs, 250 chickens and sometimes a few cows. The 3 pillars and 7 principles of a Farming Community are described here.
*Farming Communities are not affiliated with the Skal quality mark because they produce only for their own market of member households. Therefore, they do not use the term 'organic'. Instead, they speak of a 'nature-driven' or 'nature-inclusive' approach. This is explained further here.