Wetenschap - 18 januari 1996

Worldwide interest in Dutch dairy farm

Worldwide interest in Dutch dairy farm

The fact that it only takes two people, working full time, to manage a farm like this is usually the most astounding aspect for foreign visitors," explains Bart Jan de Lorijn. De Lorijn, a WAU graduate, has been a dairy farmer for the past two years in Wamel, some 20 kilometres south-west of Wageningen. He regularly receives delegations of foreign students and professionals.


One visitor came from Tanzania, where he was working as a supervisor on a prison farm. He was puzzled by this limited labour input. Glancing at the milking machine here he told me that he would be able to employ at least fifteen people in just this part of the farm. He would put one person on each milking device and a person at each doorway, which would leave him just to coordinate and supervise the lot," tells de Lorijn. Besides the aspect of labour input de Lorijn explains that the size of the farm, the amount of milk per cow and the fast growth rate of the calves are other factors which surprise foreign visitors.

De Lorijn is in the process of taking over the farm from his parents. With 75 hectares, 130 milch cows and another 130 young cattle to be reared it is a relatively large farm for the region.

De Lorijn never really thought about starting farming himself, let alone taking over his parents' farm. He studied food technology at WAU and graduated in 1993. For his practical period and thesis he spent 9 months in Bolivia, where he made an inventory of livestock and its function in the farming system. This period turned out to be an important personal experience. Working among farmers there led him to the decision to either find a job in development work or start farming himself.

After graduation de Lorijn took on a 3-month contract at the International Agricultural Centre (IAC) before making the final decision to start farming. He tells: I was employed as an assistant for the course on dairy farming in tropical rural areas. Part of the job involved the organisation of day trips, including excursions to Dutch farms. Of course I had contacts in this region and so I also arranged a visit to this farm."

Excursions

De Lorijn explains that these excursions, which take place during the first days of the course, are of an informative nature. Imagine," he says, A bus arrives with some 25 people, all with different backgrounds and nationalities, from West Samoa, the Philippines to Peru. Most have only just arrived in the Netherlands. I show them around so they get a global picture of this farm but although I enjoy these occasions, I do not really learn a lot myself from this kind of visit. One day is just too short. I do believe, however, that participants in these courses can learn a lot from each other by exchanging experiences."

De Lorijn discloses that besides these day trippers, he has also received delegations from Russia and Turkey attending tailor-made and special topic courses at IAC. He adds, In those cases the groups are smaller in number and the participants are particularly interested in a specific topic such as computerisation of farming operations for instance. I have had profound discussions during these occasions. Then I'm able to learn something from them and it makes me reflect on my own activities here as well."

De Lorijn continues: I always hope that, when they leave, they are able to look through these fancy buildings and machines and are able to see me as a farmer." Although differences among farmers worldwide are enormous, according to de Lorijn they have at least one important aspect in common: Every farmer has to cope in one way or the other with the capriciousness of nature. That is at the same time a risk but also the attraction and challenge of being a farmer. If I were to cover up the farm with greenhouses and make the farm largely independent of natural factors by introducing all kinds of technical innovations, I would not regard myself a farmer any longer."

Ambassador

Even an ambassador has requested timer for a practical period on de Lorijn's farm. The man in question is on the brink of retirement and apparently wants to start a dairy farm back home in Africa. De Lorijn continues: An important extra reason why foreigners call on me with these kind of requests is of course my ability to speak English, which is not common among Dutch farmers". De Lorijn admits that he appreciates the visits to his farm also from a social point of view. It is always nice to show and explain to others what one's occupation is and de Lorijn can be rightly proud of his. He concludes: Being a farmer is quite a solitary profession. I miss sometimes the cooperation with all kinds of different people, which I experienced of course during my study and former work at IAC."

Re:ageer