Pieter van der Valk: ‘Farmer and investor value land together’

In Friesland, citizens and farmers each pay half the land price and together they draw up a development plan under the guidance of an ecologist. With Land Cooperative Rijkdom, dairy farmer Pieter van der Valk wants to secure a comprehensive land for the future. ‘Organic land upgrading is a shared responsibility.’

In the coming years, agriculture will face major economic challenges. Farmers are forced to intensify, while there is a social desire to intensify, for example in peat meadow areas. It collides, says dairy farmer Pieter van der Valk from Ferwoude. He took the initiative for Land Cooperative Riches and is supported by, among others, the province of Fryslân, Rabobank, LTO Nederland, NAJK and BoerenNatuur. The goal is for the farmer to be able to expand the land with the help of a private investor.

We do not burn money by actually giving ecology a lasting value

Pieter van der Valk, milk producer and founder of Land Cooperative Riches

The cooperative will be officially established in mid-May by the dairy farmer Sjoerd Sterkenburg in Ferwoude. A first pilot was also performed. “Obviously this is working. We are not burning money by actually giving ecology a lasting value. It is difficult for the government. He would rather write off the land by hammering.”

What is the reason for the land share association?

‘Our neighbor announced he was on his way. He could not expand. His reasons were attractive to us. We wanted to grow them intensively in a crop rotation with flower bulbs and potatoes. But the ground is adjacent to Workumerward’s meadow bird core area. Intensive cultivation is catastrophic for meadow birds.

»One possibility would be to put a meadow bird package from the Agricultural Nature and Landscape Administration on the ground, which costs about 60,000 euros per. But with a compensation of 1,000 euros a year, it is financially a blanket for the bleeding. The purchase plan eventually fell through, but it revealed the problem. ‘

What are the main requirements for participation?

‘The farmer retains ownership of the land. Earth is emotion. So much land is already disappearing from agriculture. This is seen happening everywhere, such as in Land van Ons borgerandelsforening. I hold my heart. The discussion starts nicely sweet, but in fifteen years it will be different. Farmers are losing their influence, while their strength is that they are good stewards and can take good care of the land. Owning land is a form of security and the most sustainable solution.

“In addition, a good balance between ecology and economics is necessary. Therefore, an investor pays 50 percent of the purchase price. The farmer coughs up the other half. ‘

How is the ecology secured?

‘Via an area-oriented approach. Farmer and investor make a design plan with an ecologist. The farmer has no overriding interest, nor does the investor. They figure it out together. The contract they enter into is not fixed-term.

“There is a risk that the investor will withdraw. Then Land Cooperative Riches has a year to find another investor. If this fails, the cooperative is forced to sell again and the farmer can buy the other half of the land and use the land agriculturally. An ultimate form of shared responsibility. ‘

That sounds nice in theory. Does it work in practice?

‘We tested with the dairy farmer Sjoerd Sterkenburg with the question of whether it was financially interesting to buy land from his stopping neighbor. It was about old grassland with ditches, very suitable for meadow birds. We have found a private investor. Together, they bought 15.5 acres of land.

‘Migratory bird professor Theunis Piersma is associated with the project. The goal is to increase the number of black-tailed sparrow pairs. Of course, nature cannot be controlled. Linking numbers to the goal therefore has little function. The crucial thing is that the means, an optimal ecological arrangement of the biotope for the black-tailed godwit, come into its own.

»In addition to attributing ecological value to land, the investor receives an interest rate of 1 per cent. This can increase to 5 percent because the value of land increases. It’s a power investment. ‘

There are several initiatives to secure extensive meadow bird land, such as the attack plan for the black tail. How do you look at it?

»Here too, the compensation must compensate for the current value of the land. Just a fee per. acres will not bring you there, I’m afraid. In addition, I believe that ownership is crucial to success. Otherwise, you will quickly lack inner motivation. It does not work if a government says that 1,000 hectares must be converted into a meadow bird area. It must be done from below. ‘

How much land has been purchased through your cooperative in ten years?

“We expect an expansion of at least 500 to 600 acres. It’s a little bit, considering that in ten years, 30 percent of entrepreneurs will stop and the average size of a business is 60 acres. We have a mission to secure valuable areas like my neighbors. They have a fantastic meadow bird area. It’s almost enviable how many birds flock to the pool. ‘

Can the initiative also be implemented in other provinces?

‘Yes. We have made a plan so we can easily copy it to other provinces. We like to maintain local knowledge of areas. An ecologist should know the area. Incidentally, it is only suitable in areas with ecological potential values. In hardcore agricultural areas, we must primarily farm. ‘

Pieter van der Valk

Pieter van der Valk has a dairy cattle with 125 cows in partnership with his father. They milk the cows with two robots. The entrepreneurs moved their milk production to Ferwoude six years ago. His parents Jacob and Trudi van der Valk run a bed and breakfast and holiday apartments in Workum. The young population is also housed here and there are 25 hectares of land. The company in Ferwoude has 40 hectares of land. Pieter van der Valk is program manager for circularity in the north of the Netherlands at Wageningen Livestock Research. Three years ago, he researched through the Nuffield Scholarship how to add value to organic services. After this, he founded, among other things, the agricultural cooperative Landbrug.

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