North­ern Views

Be good and tell it

The Poultry Bulletin - - CONTENTS - By Gineke Mons

Its sum­mer hol­i­day sea­son on our side of the equinox, and quite a few farm­ers organise open farm days to al­low lo­cals and hol­i­day­mak­ers to come and visit their farm. Farm­ers over here are be­com­ing more and more aware of the im­por­tance of an open com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the buy­ers of their prod­ucts. A few decades ago, hardly any­body did it. Es­pe­cially amongst pig and poul­try farm­ers, it was quite rare. Back in the day, the pro­duc­tion of eggs and pig meat was some­thing the farmer pre­ferred to keep to him­self, sep­a­rated from the out­side world, be­hind the closed brick walls of his es­tab­lish­ment. Sta­bles were dark to keep the an­i­mals quiet (bet­ter food con­ver­sion) and the num­bers per square me­tre were high. The farmer didn’t un­der­stand city folk, and didn’t want them snoop­ing around ask­ing stupid ques­tions and in­ter­fer­ing with his busi­ness.

Over time, not only pro­duc­tion meth­ods im­proved, but also the gen­eral at­ti­tude to­wards con­sumers. ‘Be good and tell it’ is the motto

nowa­days.

“We don’t have any­thing to hide, so ev­ery­body is wel­come to come and see with their own eyes how we make your eggs, pork, poul­try meat, milk - you name it. Also, these days con­sumers are more in­ter­ested in know­ing where their food was pro­duced, and how. Quite a few the newer barns are equipped with so-called sky­boxes - an el­e­vated re­cep­tion area with a huge win­dow pane to al­low vis­i­tors a good view on what’s go­ing on in­side. And it’s ed­u­ca­tional as well, be­cause a lot of con­sumers still think that eggs are pro­duced in bat­tery cages (abol­ished in The Nether­lands in 2012) and that pigs and cows are fed growth hor­mones (growth en­hancers are banned for more than two decades). And not to men­tion the num­ber of kids who are con­vinced that milk and meat come from a fac­tory. So, open farm days bring farm­ers and con­sumers to­gether and pro­mote mu­tual un­der­stand­ing.

An­other fun ini­tia­tive I want to bring to your at­ten­tion, is the ‘chicken car­a­van’ - a mo­bile ‘home’ for lay­ing hens. Dutch egg farmer Peter van Agt built a mo­bile hen house that trav­els around in the area. It’s pow­ered by so­lar pan­els, and the doors au­to­mat­i­cally open at sun­rise and close at sun­set to keep the hens safe from preda­tors. The chick­ens wan­der around in the na­ture grounds in search of food – and have food and water in­side as well.

The car­a­van is also equipped with an ‘egg-drive’ - a slot ma­chine where passers-by can buy day-fresh eggs. This is an­other fun way to bring peo­ple in touch with farm­ing. This way, the coun­try­side moves to the city. Van Agt re­lo­cates the car­a­van every two to four weeks by trac­tor.

“My chick­ens are tak­ing a hol­i­day for a change – they’ve al­ready got a nice brown tan,” Van Agt jok­ingly said.

Once again, be good and tell it. Show the pub­lic what you’re do­ing, be­ing a proud farmer and proud of farm­ing. That’s the main thought in Dutch farm­ing nowa­days.¡

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