With the significant amount of agriculture on Texel we decided to interview Silvia de Groot. Not only does she own a dairy farm of 40 happy cows, she also works as an accountant in the agricultural sector, knowing all about the current trends concerning sustainability.
To give an introduction on their own business: with her partner Silvia owns a 30 hectare company which gives them room to grow in the future. For now they have a stable amount of 40 cows and their calves, this amount is fixed due to a quota which restricts the amount of milk a single company is allowed to produce. Their relation towards the cattle became clear from their story, since a cow lives for 15 years you bond with them as a farmer and therefore the health of your cattle is priority.
Sustainability is a key topic in all newsletters received by farmers due to the growing awareness by consumers. Currently the “kringloopwijzer” is a popular method to introduce sustainability in agriculture; it gives guidelines to exploit the grounds in the best way, using the least amount of resources and contaminants. In their surroundings sustainable energy projects are occurring more often in the shape of solar panels and small wind turbines. At their own company the warmth captured in fresh milk is captured as they cool it down and used to heat up water which is used to clean the stables and equipment. However, sustainability still bears a lot of contradictories. Sustainability means different things towards the consumer (who often wants the benefits but doesn’t want increased costs), the food companies and the farmers themselves. As the consumer starts to ask for more consciously grown food, the food companies want to fulfill to that image. However, for a “healthy” and sustainable company unpopular decisions need to be made sometimes.
The image towards the consumer is an important motivation towards sustainable methods. But as an accountant the available subsidies are often an as important trigger. Sustainable investments can result in tax reductions if certain requirements are met. As these requirements become stricter every year the sector is slowly driven towards a more sustainable working method. Food companies also pay a little more for sustainably grown food but the subsidies are needed in order to make it feasible. Though in principle the farmers in their network are nature lovers and are in principle proponents of sustainable methods, a plan has to be economically feasible to survive. One of the neighboring farms installed a windmill a few years ago which turned out to cost more than it could deliver, therefore it’s not in use anymore.
After this interview we can conclude that in the agricultural sector, even though the motivations are there, economic feasibility and therefore subsidies are needed to help the sector to transform.