News - January 19, 2016

Column: Billboard

An intern can bring about a sea change in European agricultural policy, as is so beautifully shown in the play about farmer and politician Sicco Mansholt. An internship bridges dream and reality, so that interns can set people thinking. Reflecting.

In their internship reports we ask students to reflect on the learning goals they had set themselves. A sobering and therefore valuable activity. Reality is often so different to what you could imagine within the safe walls of the university. Reflection leads to insight into the past and foresight about the future.

A large billboard recently went up by the roundabout on the Mansholtlaan: ‘Look right now and you see the best university in the Netherlands!’ Really? Sure, we evaluate, plan and make policy like there’s no tomorrow, but that isn’t reflection.


Genuine reflection means comparing your ideals, plans and activities to the reality and then marveling at how you have missed the mark. Reflection means astonishment at the complexities facing a farming family.

You reflect too after a disaster, when women are molested en masse, when crazy people start shooting randomly, or when a heart attack suddenly takes someone away. In short, you start reflecting when something doesn’t go as you think it should. When you cross a boundary. Good reflection keeps things in perspective and leads to modesty. Good reflection leads to wisdom, not to signs along the road. It is funny, but above all it is arrogant. There is not enough genuine reflection going on here. Might it be time for an intern at headquarters?

Kees van Veluw (57) teaches Permaculture and is active in organic agriculture networks. His vision stems from his work with African farmers, his networks with Dutch farmers, his family life with his wife, three sons, dog and chickens.