Together with his wife Marieke (43) and his three children Anna (12), Joost (11) and Sofie (9) he runs a dairy farm in Hekendorp in the province of Utrecht, near Woerden. Fifteen years ago they took over from his parents, who have lived next door to the farm ever since. “In 2013, we also adopted a large part of my parents-in-law’s dairy farm,” says Van Jaarsveld. “Because of these expansions, we decided in 2017 to build a new barn that meets the latest sustainability requirements.”
The so-called MDV barn (Maatlat Duurzaam Veehouderij) provides shelter for approximately one hundred and twenty dairy cows and sixty young stock. Van Jaarsveld: “Two years after construction, we were able to expand our 33 hectare house plot with approximately 27 hectares of grassland from a stopping neighbor.”
Due to the extra stable space, a tool shed became vacant. Together with his brother and sister-in-law, owners of a psychologist’s practice, he converted this part into a sculpture studio De Hartenmakerij. “Hobbyists can come and sculpt there, but it is above all a place for clients of the practice,” says Van Jaarsveld. “Under the guidance of art therapists, they process all kinds of emotions through sculpting. So you can make a heart there, but you can also have your heart made.”
The dairy farmer’s business philosophy is clear: create an attractive workplace and produce healthy and safe food, together with the animals, in a sustainable and responsible manner. “And with De Hartenmakerij in the yard, we try to reduce the distance between consumers and farm life,” he adds.
One of the biggest challenges of the near future for him is the nitrogen dossier. “We are doing our bit with the MDV stable. But we want to develop the company further towards sustainability, in a profitable way. With a reward for the entrepreneur who again offers room for development and innovation. That is also important in order to be able to transfer an attractive company to a possible successor.”
With a large solar panel installation and expansion of the house plot – which guarantees the so-called ‘land-relatedness’ of the company – he is already working on the sustainable path. The downside is the financing burden. “With alternative revenue models such as nature management, De Hartenmakerij and participation in FrieslandCampina’s sustainable milk flow PlanetProof, we are already trying to provide extra income with which we can meet our obligations.”
Sustainability and biodiversity are therefore not just ideals within the company; they are also proven to contribute to a better operating result. Van Jaarsveld calls the biodiversity monitor a ‘nice tool’ for measuring and assessing performance. “We see how we score at company level in eight different areas, and how we can make improvements. With the compensation we receive for biodiversity-enhancing performance, we can invest again in new sustainable measures.”
Van Jaarsveld hopes that many chain parties will support this method. “The role of the government, buyers, consumers and especially Rabobank is important for the successful improvement of biodiversity in companies. The whole society must invest. By buying sustainable products, with interest discounts on green loans, you name it. And I hope that agricultural companies with good performance will be structurally rewarded, because entrepreneurs need financial security to maintain and expand improvements.”
Fair earnings model
He is convinced that farmers in the Netherlands have a future. But the farm of the past will not continue to exist, is his expectation. “The race from having the most cows in the neighborhood may well change to having the most wildlife. And if that direction results in a fair revenue model for the farmer, I think that many – including me – can live with it just fine!”
Rabobank director of Food & Agri Carin van Huët wholeheartedly agrees. “The stacking of rewards can make the difference here. Margins in the food and agri sectors are narrow. With a new revenue model, we therefore want to guarantee that entrepreneurs can make the necessary investments in the future.”
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