Five years off the beaten path

De Nieuwe Boerenfamilie is celebrating its birthday, hurrah! After five years, NBF has grown into a mature platform where countless farmers and non-farmers have already found each other. And five years of NBF also means: five editions of the Boerenversneller, the change program for farmers who want to do things differently. As many as 75 farmers have already participated in this agricultural accelerator and accelerated their business. We asked four of them where they are now, and what the Boerenversneller has brought them.
Published on 05 Mar 2024

Accelerating is: knowing when to take a rest

Cornelis Mosselman participated in the very first edition of the Boerenversneller in 2019. He radically transformed his conventional arable farm and can now call himself an organic farmer, short-chain supplier and expert in strip farming. "For me, the Boerenversneller was the first change program and it came at exactly the right time. I was already busy with sustainability, but often felt like a loner among my fellow farmers. At the NBF, I found like-minded people - very different farmers from me, but all with foresight." The Boerenversneller was a push in the right direction for Cornelis. The passion was already there; the vision was further sharpened by his participation. "And it has become a much bigger story than I thought it would be."


 "Colleagues might think it's crazy - but I'm used to that, after all these years off the beaten path."


But pioneering is not all fun. And that is why he is now making a decision that in a way completely fits his radical business philosophy: "2024 will be a sabbatical year. A moment of pause after these hectic years. If I keep going like this, my vision of the future will narrow and I won't last in the end." Cornelis won't sit still, of course: "All sorts of things will still happen on the farm, even if we give the land a year's rest: there will be tiny houses here, a food forest, you name it." But much more importantly, the rest year is a very conscious choice, an essential part of the change process. Knowing when to rest, when to celebrate your successes; that too is part of transition and acceleration. "This decision gives me a lot of peace of mind. It is also a matter of setting boundaries. Maybe colleagues will think it's crazy - but I'm used to that, after all these years off the beaten path."

Cornelis Mosselman
Cornelis pitches his (new) business plans

Reality check for the shepherd

Off the beaten path, that's also where we find shepherd Marijke Dirkson. She participated in the Boerenversneller not once, but twice - in 2020 and in 2023. In 2020, Marijke was still in the middle of the purchase process of a farm of her own, "actually a far too big a process." Until then, she herded her flocks wherever it was needed, throughout North Holland, but now the sheep and their shepherds are settled on one farm. That Marijke participated in the Boerenversneller one more time was because she felt the need to find "words and actions" to her big dreams. "When we bought the farm, I could stand in front of it and see at a glance: this is what we want, this is how it should be. But I didn't know how to get there."


"Thanks to the Boerenversneller, we really had a reality check."


By now, Marijke is no longer "in front" of the farm, but really "in" it. And because of that, she has realized that she is not going to make it with sheep herds alone. "In that we are too dependent on clients, who unfortunately can't always pay for our added value. We have to build something ourselves to give the farm a solid financial backing." And that something will be: an agricultural nursery, where children (and their parents) can experience firsthand what it is like to be connected to the landscape. "That, too, is a contribution to the agricultural transition." And not a concession, Marijke emphasizes. "Thanks in part to the Boerenversneller, we really have a reality check had. The landscape has really changed - also literally, for example with the arrival of the wolf - and it was necessary to take a new step, and we are very much looking forward to it." Within five years, the nursery should be open. And by then, Marijke hopes to be involved in the Boerenversneller yet again - not as a participant, but as an inspiring example.

Marijke and her husband 'reframe' their business plans

Embrace the change

From North Holland we move on to Friesland, where biodynamic dairy farmer Jaring Brunia lives and works. He took part in the Farmers Accelerator in 2022, when after a few tumultuous years he had "everything back on track" and wanted to get clear again for himself: what am I doing again, and why? His participation in the Boerenversneller was intended to become inspired again about his own role in the agricultural transition. "Because when you are in the middle of something, sometimes you don't see the beautiful things yourself anymore." The program brought him new energy, inspiration and confirmation that he was on the right track.


"When you're in the middle of something, sometimes you can't see the beautiful things yourself."


For Jaring, the past five years have been quite tumultuous, but he is hopeful about developments in agriculture. "The urgency of the new story is becoming more and more visible, and I am very happy that I chose natural farming 15 years ago. I have learned in recent years anyway to see the future positively. It will never be like it was, so don't hold on to that too much. Embrace the change, then it really will get better." For Jaring, the Boerenversneller is above all a warm bath, a place where you can be inspired and stay inspired, "instead of talking to your neighbor who sees everything bleakly and feels that everyone is against him." Together you stay hopeful, Jaring said.

Jaring (left) and Aron are guests at Brandt and Levie in Amsterdam

"This company is not about excelsior"

Also hopeful is Diana van Veelen, who participated in 2020 to make her conventional dairy farm in Zeewolde more sustainable and actually change course completely, toward a citizen farm and preferably a complete food cooperative. How does it stand, four years later? "Agriculture is standing! We have cows, we grow vegetables with the neighbor, it's all running. Now we're mostly working on the next big plan: set up a cooperative together with all kinds of food entrepreneurs who want to build their own toko here in our yard." Meanwhile, work is also busily continuing on citizen farm Voedsaam, which should eventually become "Flevoland's food hub." Diana wants to organize food production according to the philosophy of the commons, where "the earth belongs to no one" is the starting point.


"I could use 25 times someone like myself here on the farm."


Four years into her participation in Boerenversneller, Diana feels she is at a tipping point, and that she is going to need the outside world even more in the time ahead. "When I participated, my husband and I had to write a business plan very quickly for the bank. We spent months just sitting in excel sheets. But this company is not about excel sheets; we really want to shape a different economy, give money a different role." Shaping another economy, that sounds ambitious, and it is. "Yes, so much has to be organized here. We are constantly looking for people, citizens, preferably with organizational power, who want to stand beside us. I could use 25 people like myself here on the farm."

Diana and her husband point to where their - then future - farmhouse is to be located

Will you come celebrate with us?

These four farmers show that it can be done, and that change in the agricultural sector starts with the connection between farmer and non-farmer. Would you like to hear more stories like this and contribute to that connection yourself? Then come to De Nieuwe Boerenfamiliedag on Friday, March 22nd, where we will celebrate our fifth anniversary with a day full of inspiration.


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