“Common, biological or biodynamic, we want to provide all the tools to restore and enrich ecosystems,” said Xavier San Giorgi, founder of the Weerwoud Foundation. For Stichting Weerwoud, agroforestry (agriculture with trees, shrubs and perennials) is the system to achieve this goal. In collaboration with farmers, they integrate agroforestry into their business operations. In addition to the ecological benefits, of course, it must also be profitable for a farmer, otherwise it is just another obligation to preserve nature. “Agroforestry is a real win-win. It restores and enriches the ecosystem and the farmer can use it to his advantage in combination with other crops.”
Research site of the Weerwoud Foundation on Utopia Island. Photo: Rene Siebring
Utopia Island: a practice-driven research site
The Weerwoud Foundation has its own practice-driven research site of 1.4 hectares on the Utopia island in Almere. Here they experiment with 8 different agroforestry systems. Each with different combinations of crops, trees and animals. “Making mistakes and discovering what is possible is the key. We go through the whole process ourselves from growing to selling a product. For example, we make walnut liqueur ourselves.” The Weerwoud Foundation publishes a fact sheet on the economic feasibility of all systems. “We are seeing interest in agroforestry grow among farmers, but it is still an unknown step for many. With our research laboratory on Utopia Island, we not only show the benefits of agroforestry for the ecosystem, also the opportunities that agroforestry can offer an agricultural enterprise. ”
Farmers learn from farmers
To put agroforestry on the map, the Weerwoud Foundation has set up a comprehensive program called ‘Farmers learn from farmers’ during Floriade Expo 2022. This focuses on the farmer and the issues that arise from their specific business operations. Around this they arrange excursions for farmers to three companies with agroforestry. Introductory webinars can also be viewed on the Stichting Weerwood’s YouTube channel. “Two of the agricultural companies we visit on our excursions are field studies: Gerard Keurentjes ‘biodynamic dairy farm and Karin Perdaems’ conventional farming. We both support in drawing up a business plan for Agroforestry. ”
Biodynamic milk producer Gerard Keurentjes embarked on agroforestry. Photo: Xavier San Giorgi
“Gerard already has a lot of experience. Among other things, he has stopped using concentrates, has grasslands rich in herbs and has added at least 1.5 km of hedges in recent years. From Weerwoud, we mainly support Gerard with content elaboration and help to make the economic picture right. With Karin we are still in the discovery phase. We start small, because it is still unusual for field farmers to integrate trees. This cultivation has a different dynamic, which makes it difficult to assess the workload. Agroforestry involves many “Practical actions. Together with Karin, we work on a good level so that she can gain more experience. And we learn just as much from the collaboration!”
Agricultural forestry on Karin Perdaems’ conventional farm Photo: Xavier San Giorgi
This year, the Weerwoud Foundation has the honor of hosting the first live meeting of the National Agroforestry Network with the LNV on 26 September. This is specifically aimed at the entrepreneur. In addition, there are daily guided tours of Utopia Island during the Floriad. For more information, visit www.utopiaeiland.nl
Weerwoud Foundation at BioVelddag 2022
This year, the Weerwoud Foundation also speaks to interested growers at BioVelddagen. Xavier San Giorgi and Eline van de Veen are curious about the questions farmers have. And, of course, they like to tell about what they have already learned during their field studies in agriculture and animal husbandry.
‘BioVelddag: Encounter, Inspire & Innovate’ takes place on Thursday 23 June 2022 in the Agroecology and Technology Experimental Garden (Elandweg 84, Lelystad). Visitors can visit the event for free. The program starts at 14.00 and lasts until approximately 20.00. Kl. At 18.00 De Strandhoeve serves an organic 3-course meal for € 28.50. Pre-order required via the website below. Reservations can still be made for the meal today, June 17th. Unlike previous years, it is not possible to book on site this year.
The online BioVelddag platform offers a range of field activities, information, podcasts and videos all year round. BioVelddagen is organized together with the sector and interest organizations by: Åben Dyrkning WUR, the Louis Bolk Institute, Agrifirm, Ceres and BioAkademiet.
For more information and registration: www.biovelddagen.nl