Farmer and Amsterdammer join hands

A normal conversation about agriculture, nature and nitrogen. Without everyone immediately getting into each other's hair. That is what food innovator Joris Lohman and dairy farmer Geertjan Kloosterboer hope to organize this week. Article forwarded from Trouw.
Published on Aug 22, 2022
Joris Lohman and Geertjan Kloosterboer with cows in a field.

Just a good conversation about agriculture, nature and nitrogen.

In Geertjan Kloosterboer's yard, too, the farmer's handkerchief flutters. Since childhood he has walked among the cows, here in Oxe, on the outskirts of Deventer. He has about 125 of them: they walk around in a large, spacious and modern barn, with a milking robot and waterbeds.

The animals are rarely out in the pasture. "I would like to get them outside more often," he says. But the opportunities he has here have also grown that way historically. Kloosterboer does not currently have enough suitable land for his cows to graze outside. He wants to change that. At this very moment, he is looking around in abundance to see where land will come up for sale in the neighborhood.

But land is also expensive, and the nitrogen crisis creates a dilemma in that regard. After all, what does the government really want, he says. "If stricter environmental requirements are imposed on stables in a few years, the question is whether it is wise for me to invest in land. Because even I can only spend my money once." It's a symptom of the fact that while the government is pursuing substantial nitrogen reduction, it still hasn't articulated how it sees the future of agriculture.

School classes and movies

Kloosterboer finds it important to show others what he does. Through videos on social media, for example. His wife regularly hosts school classes in the yard. This is how he came into contact a few years ago with Joris Lohman, an Amsterdam native and co-founder of Food Hub. Lohman also does food education, but through the lens of the change-minded urbanite. Food Hub's mission? "To drive the transition to a fair, healthy, delicious and sustainable food system."

Lohman visits farmers often enough to know that practice can be unruly in this regard. "But when he was featured in an article the other day, there were a few things in there that annoyed me," Kloosterboer says. Like that farmers don't have to leave, but as far as Lohman is concerned, they should move or get rid of their animals.

A sentence Lohman did not mean so much as an opinion; rather as a general explanation of what is going on. "We concluded: if we are going to have an argument about this even now, we'd better come to a good conversation sometime," says Kloosterboer. An employee of Wageningen University (Wur) spontaneously offered a space. And so at least sixty - and up to a hundred - people will now gather on August 25. Farmers, but also many other parties involved in the food system.

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