Wetenschap - 23 mei 2002

Dutch growers are very aware of environmental issues

Dutch growers are very aware of environmental issues

American horticulture students visit Wageningen

A group of American horticulture students visited Wageningen for two weeks in May to explore Dutch market gardening. They visited growers and were struck by how aware the growers are of environmental issues. The students from Michigan State University were also surprised by the amount of indoor plants the Dutch keep in their houses.

Last October a group of twelve Dutch students visited Michigan State University and the state of Florida to see what the horticulture there looked like. Now it was the turn of the American students to visit. The group of ten, eight women and two men, came to Wageningen as part of a study abroad programme. In the fortnight they were here they visited nurseries, production companies, an auction, and the horticulture exhibition Floriade. They went to the Delta works in Zeeland, which protects this province from flooding and had lectures. All in all it was a busy and tiring schedule. "The naps in the van are good," says Heather DeRuiter. Her name reveals a Dutch connection. "My dad's grandparents are from Holland, but I don't know if I have family here," DeRuiter explains. Jennifer VandenBerg did visit relatives. "I've always wanted to come to the Netherlands. My father's family lives here and this study abroad programme offered me the opportunity to come here."

The students noticed several differences with the horticultural situation back home. Here the farms are small and they have less field production. There is also no auction system in the US. DeRuiter thinks that this flexible Dutch system means that the growers get more money for their products. "American growers sign a contract with the buyer and must deliver on a certain date. If not, they are penalised," she says. Niek Botden from the Horticultural Production Chains Group at Wageningen University nevertheless predicts that the Dutch auction will disappear within fifteen years. Botden: "It only works where there are many buyers and sellers. I think that situation will change." The Dutch growers are also more aware of environmental issues than their American counterparts. "It will be hard to reach that situation back home," thinks VandenBerg.

Stacy Sandborn remarked that there are many dogs in the Netherlands. "I'm scared of dogs," she admits. The group also noticed that the Dutch have many plants inside their houses and that people have gardens. "Americans don't keep plants because they are afraid they'll kill them," says DeRuiter. The students stayed in rooms on different levels of the Rijnsteeg student flat, which smelled according to them. Sandborn: "In our dorms we at least have carpet on the floor." But the people were friendly.

Yvonne de Hilster

Despite the smiles on their faces, the visiting American students commented that they had seen too many tomatoes during their trip. The planned visits to fruit growers were cancelled.

Photo Guy Ackermans

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