The story of
Arjen & Winny
Farming is challenging, but for the one's who pull through, it is incredibly rewarding! Both Arjen and Winny know the challenges that comes with the lifestyle. Both of them have gathered a backpack full of life experiences and now they take on the mission to run two farms and sell as much locally as possible! Here is their story...
Arjen & Winny
Arjen had the dream of becoming a forester when he was still in school. As he knew it would be hard to make a living in that profession, he decided to do the second closest thing to nature, farming. During internships and work after school hours at his uncle's business, he got interested in organic practices, practices which also came much closer to nature than the standard way of farming at the time. But as the Netherlands was rather saturated with agricultural opportunities, he saw a better chance in farming abroad. Via his international network, at the time he worked as a farrier, he looked into the opportunities of farming in Ireland. He ended up running a mixed organic farm, growing crops, and raising livestock. Most of the produce was being sold locally on markets and to businesses in the neighbourhood. After many years of running the farm, he prepared it for his daughters to continue in the equine sector, whilst his entrepreneurial adventure brought him back to the Netherlands. He took on a job as a lecturer on an agricultural university of applied sciences whilst moving to the east of the Netherlands with Winny.
Winny has a large amount of experience as an organisational and team coach at a large Dutch telecom firm. By giving teams the chance to organise themselves, Winny managed to increase the workflow at the firm and to reduce occurring problems by a quarter. These qualities come in really handy running the farms.
Strip cropping is a practice where a crop grows in strips of a certain width, a field has then a pattern of variety of different crops instead of only one crop. This practice allows insects (also beneficial insects) to reach all the way into the crop, it lowers disease pressure and increases biodiversity, whilst the benefit for the farmer is that the fields can still be cultivated with machinery. This practice is applied both at Twickel and at Velhorst.
In 2018 the two entrepreneurs started their adventure at country estate Velhorst in a region called De Achterhoek. The farm is beautifully surrounded by forests, rivers and extensively managed pastures. If you ever get the chance to visit the east of the Netherlands, it is worth taking a walk and take in all the beauty. Before arriving at the farm you will drive through forests with occasionally a field opening up the space. At the end of the blind alley there are two farm houses amongst a variety of historical buildings. Both farms as well as the land are rented from the "Dutch society for preservation of nature monuments". The two parties together have set goals on the management of the landscape and the historical buildings. Some land is permanantly grassland, some land is used to only grow grain, and other land is kept unharvested so that the birds can feed themselves. Almost all the agricultural land in the Netherlands is being used to grow as much as possible. Often the natural limits are stretched by using artificial external inputs. By simply not foccusing on maximal harvest, Arjen and Winny also manage to increase the soil activity, capture carbon from the atmosphere into the soil, increase biodiversity, protect wild life and much more. And these are all examples of benefits that come along when you decide to shop ethically.
The farm location at country estate Twickel came on the path of Arjen and Winny in the spring of 2020. Estate Twickel wants to become more nature inclusive and uses the farm of Arjen and Winny on the estate as an example farm. By using an example they hope that fellow farmers are open to transition to a more sustainable model as well. The farm at Twickel is still in conversion to organic, which takes up to three years. The harvest from 2022 will then be fully organic certified. The transition period is a difficult period for farmers, during these years the farmer has the extra costs in labour, seeds and management costs, whilst the products cannot be sold as organic. For this reason we also offer products in transition to organic.
The farm at Twickel consists out of some traditional buildings, of which this one may be converted to a shop at some point. Furthermore Arjen and Winny are planning to grow a wide variety of crops and take on the challenge to market their products via short chains.