Zuid-Holland could be an example for the rest of the world

SUSTAINABILITY Healthy, sustainable and affordable food for everyone - that is the ambition of the Province of Zuid-Holland. But how to go about it? Regional Minister Han Weber and Voedselfamilies (‘Food families’) chairman Dress Peter van den Bosch agree on that: the food chain has to be changed.

Han Weber

Regional Minister Province of Zuid-Holland

Why do you think that Zuid-Holland farmers have to produce more for their surroundings?

Weber: "We find ourselves in an area with a lot of subsidence and a high land price. What you get is that the competition from abroad is advancing. China is constructing giant mega stables, with which a Zuid-Holland dairy farmer cannot compete. Zuid-Holland is densely populated and as such offers an enormous local market. Increasingly, local residents demand sustainable food. That offers opportunities.”

What is the result of sustainable food of Zuid-Holland soil?

Weber: “Shorter food chains, so fewer links between producer and consumer, make the Co2 ‘food’ print smaller. Additionally, more profit is left for the producer, who can invest in sustainability.  Together, we will realise our targets this way: producing within the limits of environmental standards, shortening chains, closing cycles and strengthening the biodiversity.

The Province has made 14 million Euro, including European rural areas subsidies, available for the Innovation Plan Sustainable Agriculture to start testing grounds. We do this in collaboration with Voedselfamilies: an open network of farmers, entrepreneurs and knowledge institutions, who jointly look for innovations for a sustainable food chain.”

Can we see these innovations anywhere?

Weber: “On 18 October, the Harvest Market takes place at the Provincial Government Building. where you can taste local and sustainable food from Zuid-Holland. The market is open from 11 AM to 2 PM. 18 October is also Harvest Day. Food producers and policy makers will meet to take further steps towards a more sustainable agricultural chain. You can register for this day via www.zuid-holland.nl/oogstweek.”

What do you come up against in the transition of the food chain, as an entrepreneur?

Van den Bosch: “You are up against a system that has developed itself over the past sixty years. You don't simply change that. Everyone is in a regime: farmers produce for the masses, buyers all want economy of scale and the consumer is used to a large choice, a competitive price and a lot of comfort. To achieve a real change, you have to address all those points.”

How would you organise the system?

Van den Bosch: The distance between consumer and producer has to be reduced. The basis of our food has to come from nearby. How it is produced also matters. Prevent the producer from exhausting the soil, otherwise there will be nothing left for future generations. The production, processing and consumption of food may affect mankind and the environment. By including these effects in the price, producers and consumers have to get the right incentives.”

Why is it so interesting to shape the food transition in Zuid-Holland?

Van den Bosch: “The regional scale of Zuid-Holland fits neatly between the small scale I am at and the scale of The Netherlands., and it is a region with all kinds of agriculture: husbandry, agriculture, greenhouses - and a world-class port. It could be an example for the rest of the world.”