The university campus is a lot less crowded during summer, but that does not mean nothing is happening. Plant research during this season cannot simply be put on hold. Peter van der Zee is biotechnological plant attendant at Unifarm. He is spending a rainy summer day on his knees in the field, harvesting tulip bulbs.
© Didi de Vries
‘You don’t really want to go into the field when it’s raining’, Van der Zee says. ‘There’s a reason people say “a farmer with wit never enters a wet field”.’ [in Dutch: “een boer met verstand komt nooit op het natte land”, red.] According to him, walking through the field once in boots will not do much damage, but driving a tractor around is not something you should even consider. The weight of a tractor would leave deep marks on the land, and the soil would get ‘smeared’.
The fact that Van der Zee is knowledgeable about crop tending is obvious. Although his parents have no background in the farm life, they encouraged him years ago when he started the Biodynamic Agriculture programme in Dronten. Biodynamic agricultural systems consider forces of nature, the moon phase and more. ‘That is not something one would encounter at this university, although research into organic production is carried out.’
Gradually, his passion for agriculture grew, and the idea to start his own farming company is still in the back of his head. ‘But I really found my place at Unifarm as well. There’s still a lot I can learn here, and there are many opportunities for growth’, says the crop attendant.
For Van der Zee, the best part of his work is the variation in tasks; attending crops, ploughing, pre-trimming, sowing, planting, spreading fertiliser, weeding, harvesting, and many, many other things. By experiencing these varied tasks, he has found he has a preference for the technological innovations in agriculture. Unifarm recently acquired a drone to take pictures of the land. ‘We will soon be able to rent out that drone to researchers. That is a fun expansion to our research opportunities.’