Surrounded by brown-black stone windmills and colorful tulips lies the Dutch farm Het Groene Hart – the Green Heart. Located 20 km south-west of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, the farm lives up to its name: almost every shade of green can be found on the field on this damp day in May. Even the solar panel-equipped farm buildings are painted bright green.
Jasper Roubos, the farm’s owner, exits one of these buildings, the potato storage. He swipes sweat off his forehead; he just helped load 35 tons of potatoes onto a truck, which he will sell to a French-fry manufacturer. “Beside onions, sugar beet and winter wheat, potatoes are one of our main sources of income,” states Roubos. If his potatoes meet specific requirements from the French fry industry, he achieves a good price: “The perfect potato to make French fries is large, round and has a good, golden color. The inside of the potato is just as important. When the French fries are baked, they will turn golden and crisp. Finally, the ratio of water to the total mass must be balanced, and the outer potato skin may be not damaged.”
Excellent Crop Conditions
In fact, Het Groene Hart’s region provides excellent conditions for healthy crop development. Since it is located five meters below sea level, Roubos’ crops grow on 50 hectares own land, made of fertile polder dike soil. “Fortunately, it rains a lot in the Netherlands. Therefore, we only need a little artificial irrigation,” he explains. Roubos doesn’t only rely on the good regional conditions. In order to ensure the high quality standard during the whole cultivation process, Roubos decided to participate in the Bayer ForwardFarming program.
Bayer ForwardFarms are sustainable agriculture in practice. As one of them, the Het Groene Hart farm proves that economic success can exist alongside a responsible environmental approach. “I want to farm without harming the environment.” To reach this goal, Roubos is in regular contact with Bayer experts. “I have productive discussions with the specialists that come to my farm. I’m able to implement new ideas and raises my farm’s sustainability to a higher level.” Roubos’ eyes wander to Het Groene Hart’s nearby bee hotel. As he gets closer to the hives, a vibrating hum fills the air. Therefore, Roubos raises his voice to be heard: “Bee health is another component of our ForwardFarming initiative. At our farm, 270,000 bees live in a safe haven of nine bee hives, where they can nest in a protected atmosphere.” In the spring, each Het Groene Hart’s queen bee lays up to 2,000 eggs a day. Flowers of vibrant colors, such as yellow and orange poppies, surround the bee hotel: “Bees are an important part of sustainable agriculture because they pollinate a large part of all crops in the world. Thus, we also work here with bees and this is working quite well. Our flowering strips make the bees feel as comfortable as possible.”
I want to farm without harming the environment.
Before Roubos’ working day ends, he cleans his tractor and machines. While doing this, he also has the environment in mind. Whenever Roubos fills or cleans his spraying equipment on the farm, he uses Phytobac, a simple but highly effective spray-residue management system. It prevents residues from getting into sewage systems or nearby bodies of water.
As Roubos parks his clean tractor, the evening sun sets on Het Groene Hart. It’s time for him to have dinner with his wife, Eveline and their two small children Sam and Jenna. Thinking about his family, Roubos feels a big responsibility: “I’m a sixth-generation farmer, and I want the farm to exist at least for another six generations. So it’s my job to farm sustainably in order to ensure the soil and water quality for the next generations.”