Be good and tell it
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
“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.¡