Some time ago, while I was walking our dog Jurre, an elderly grey man approached me. At first, we were talking about our dogs and the beautiful vista. There was a thick layer of fog draped over the pastures of ‘it Fryske Gea’, which gave the area an almost fairytale-like effect. After telling the old man about our farm and my vision, he mentioned an article in the newspaper ‘Trouw’ about the Oostvaardersplassen. The Oostvaardersplassen is a very important nature reserve in the province of Flevoland. And then he told me the answer to my vision might lie in this reserve…
I wanted to go home as fast as possible. I walked as fast as I could, almost running at some point. When I finally arrived home I rushed to my computer to google the article the old man mentioned. And what do you know, my vision actually works! The Oostvaardersplassen are the proof that our vision of challenging nature is possible. The article describes how this nature reserve is so healthy it can raise more animals on one hectare (about 2.5 acres) of nature than on one hectare of intensively worked agricultural land.
Research led by Han Olff, professor of ecology, showed that the co-operation of ‘everything’ (meaning the worms, bacteria, plant remains and herbivores) is the secret to this high level of production. It’s the cow that eats the grass and gives it back to the soil in the form of manure. The bacteria and worms work with this manure to turn in into food for the plants. “… but nothing is able to work on its own. If you take out one piece of the puzzle, the whole system collapses”, says Han Olff.
The Oostvaardersplassen was a sandy area, which was not rich enough to use for agricultural purposes. Yet now it feeds more animals per hectare than some of the best farmers in the Netherlands!
It is going to take a while before my farm is as rich and healthy as the Oostvaardersplassen, but the proof of concept is there. This gives me hope and the strength to continue with my vision!