Looking back at Akkervarkens Excurion

Summary – excursion to Akkervarkens farm

Summary – excursion to Akkervarkensarm

On 26th January, Boerengroep organized an excursion to the farm Akkervarkens (Field pigs in English) in Walthermond in Drenthe region, for a group of 11 people. The goal was to visit a pig farm with an innovative, more animal- and environmental-friendly way of raising pigs.

Akkervarkens farm is, to say the least, special. Willem and Claudia, the farmers, wanted their pigs to be raised in their natural habitats, so that they could perform their natural behavior. They have 250 pigs that live outside all year round. They live in and feed on neighboring forest areas, and on other farmers’ arable fields where they dig out weeds or the remains of a harvest (like potatoes). This way, new open spaces are created in forests and the fields are cleaned without machines, which leaves more space to soil life. Every day, pigs get additional feed that is locally sourced (such as cereals and beets), to ensure that they remain healthy and so they keep coming to the farmers.

The entire life cycle of the pigs is managed by the farmers, from birth to slaughter. The sows give birth in the farrowing pen on-farm, where they have space to make their own nest made of straw. Some extra space close to the walls is made especially for piglets, to prevent them from being crushed by their mother. Piglets stay with their mother for 8 to 10 weeks (instead of 4 weeks in conventional farms), before they are placed together by age so they learn to get used to life outside and within a group.

The farm raises 3 different breeds (Berkshire, Duroc and Husumer) that are known for being robust and curious, perfect for living outside. Husumer is especially a rare breed that the farmers want to save from extinction. Pigs are raised until more or less 1.5 years old (instead of 6-7 months in conventional farms). The farmers bring the animals to the slaughterhouse themselves to ensure minimum stress. The meat is sold on-farm. It has extra tenderness and juiciness thanks to the special breeds. The meat is not organic but it is free of antibiotics and of conservatives.

Akkervarkens farm is multifunctional and locally rooted. The pigs are used as landscape managers, as they clean fields and forests. Also, because the pigs dig weeds with their roots, the farm works hand-in-hand with the municipality to control invasive exotics, such as the Japanese Knotweed (Japanse duizendknoop in Nederlands). Farmers offer farm visits all year round, and people can pass by freely to say hi to the pigs, some of them give the pigs their leftovers. The farmers also organize activities for children: they have an indoor playground for children parties (including farm animals) and they organize each year an acorn collection campaign: together with local residents and sport clubs they go and pick up (up to 6000kg) acorns, as treats for the pigs.

Getting a 2-hour tour at the Akkervarkens farm is quite an experience. It is especially delightful to help the farmer go feed the pigs, and to see hundreds of them happily running to us from a distance in the field. It is inspiring to get to know about an economically successful farm that raises pigs according to their natural behavior, allowing them to live outside under the trees, dig out their food and to chill in the mud.

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Boerengroep is looking for a new coordinator

Dear all,

The contract of Patricia, the coordinator of Boerengroep, is coming to an end the 1st of May 2019, so we are looking for someone else to take over. We are looking for someone who is fluent in Dutch, as they will be dealing with external (Dutch) parties, farmers and things such as taxes and regulations. Would you be so kind to spread this vacancy among your network?

On behalf of Boerengroep,

Maarten de Graaff

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Looking back on 2018

Past year the theme which linked most of our activities was ‘Agroecology as a science, practice and movement!’ Our yearly organised Farm Experience Internships, which is focused on agroecology in practice, and attending a big agroecology conference in 2017 inspired us to explore this concept more. Agroecology has an overarching meaning; covering many agricultural practices, approaches, realities, and struggles of people all around the world. During our activities we encouraged people to get familiar with it, so they are able to look from a critically underpinned agroecological perspective at current global developments and challenges. 

Agroecology as a science had a profound role in the Wageningen Dialogue we successfully co-organised. In this edition, ‘Cutting across the silo’s’, conversations were started about the future of food production and food sovereignty. Students and researchers were challenged to share thoughts from different backgrounds to come up with and think about solutions together, past own chair groups and courses.

Agroecology as a practice, working with basic ecological principles in agriculture, was part of all excursions we organised in 2018. In Spring we for example went to two different dairy farms, one focused on preserving an old breed of cows, processing and selling at the farm, while the other one was a high-tech, innovative family farm. These two seemingly very opposite farms fuelled interesting discussions and comparisons about market aspects and farmers position in society. Of course, the ‘practice’ part was part of the Farm Experience Week in July, in which we explored and experienced various aspects of agroecology, seeds, soil, grass management, permaculture and future farms. In November several of these principles came back during the masterclass on ecosystem restoration design which we co-organised together with the Plant. Although the link with agroecology as a science was also emphasized there as the essence of monitoring projects.

The meaning of agroecology as a social movement was incorporated in the Farmers markets we organised, based on the Voedsel Anders initiative. During these events supporting and linking local farmers, initiatives and entrepreneurs to students and researchers was the main aim. The ‘highlight’ of this series of events was the FoodKaravaan stop in Wageningen in September, in which we, amongst other things, explored philosophical views on food and future food production. The power of social movements could also be felt during a presentation about the 15th Garden project in Syria, which is about growing food in damaged places and refugee camps in the Middle East.

For 2019 we are looking forward to further explore these concepts with you, interwoven in the year theme of ‘Circular Agriculture – the way forward?’

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2019 – Exploring options for more circularity in farming

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18th January 12:30 – 13:30 @ Implulse, WUR Campus

On behalf of the Boerengroep team, I wish all of you an amazing 2019. We are looking forward to a year full of inspiring meetings and dialogues with students, farmers and other random creatures AND to organising events that facilitate those interactions. This year, we like to encourage you to cut throught the (scientific) silos, move beyond your personal boundaries and increasingly shift linear thinking to circular! Hereby, we like to invite you to join us for the Kick-off of the Circular Farming Platform during lunch on the 18th of January!

Circular agriculture is the future. Our minister of agriculture – Carola Schouten – has declared her vision “The Netherlands front runner in circular agriculture’’. Our executive board president Louise Fresco has recently announced a paradigm shift in agricultural science from improvement of productivity towards improvement of circularity. What is the next step to these beautiful ideas? How can we integrate circularity thinking into WUR education? Boerengroep has decided to take this topic of circular farming as it’s year theme! We will follow the developments and participate in this disucussion lively!

Join the kick-off of the Circular Farming Platform and see how you can contribute to the conversation!

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Masterclass with permaculture- and ecosystemdesigner Daniel Halsey

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This Thursday evening (15th November) Daniel Halsey, an internationally renowned designer of ecosystem restoring landscapes, both large and small, will hold a lecture/masterclass open to students and others interested. In current times with increasing need for changing landscape models and ways to cope with climate change, using ecosystem design could be one of the key answers!

This master class is interesting for anyone who is involved in developing landscapes, ecosystem restoration, and new forms of agriculture, peasantry, forestry and food supply. It will be open to students and others interested and takes place on November 15th in the Forum Building, C222.

Master-class with Daniel Halsey
“Designing diversified, ecologically based foodscapes of the Future’

Date: 15th November
Time: 19:30 coffee/tea
20:00 – 22:30
Location: Forum C222 (WUR CAMPUS) Droevendaalsesteeg 2
No registration and no entrance fee. Just show up on time.

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Voedselkaravaan Wageningen on 28th September

Voedselkaravaan1De Voedselkaravaan / The Food Caravan of VoedselAnders is coming to Wageningen on the 28th of September to put the transition towards more sustainable and fair food and agriculture on the agenda. In one evening there will be three events which you can either visit all three to have a full evening program, or just one or two of them: A buffet with movie screening, conversation with Michiel Korthals (philosopher), party with band.

Detailed program and more information on ‘de Voedselkaravaan’: https://www.voedselanders.nl/de-voedselkaravaan-2018/

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Regardless the heat 24 participants followed this years FEI!

Farm Experience Internship 2018Thank you card FEI 2018

From 23rd – 27th of July Boerengroep organised a very successful Farm Experience Week, which is the first part of the Farm Experience Internship (FEI). Twenty-four participants, from eleven different nationalities, have completed a full week of workshops and excursions focused on agroecology as a science, a movement and a practice. This large diversity in nationalities and backgrounds offers a unique opportunity to learn from each other and to get into dialogues on sustainable ways of food production. Most of the participants are currently continuing their learning process by working alongside a farmer in a farm or garden somewhere in the Netherlands. The 5th of October all participants will meet once more to share their experiences and reflect on the theory and their learning processes.

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farm experience week posterThe Summercourse of Boerengroep is back this year in a slightly different form. This year we organise ONE inspiring week from July 23rd till July 27th. This week will be full of workshops, excursions, food and fun about topics as agroecology, soil, sustainable food systems and participatory research.

On top of this, we can still support you in finding a farm to work at. Continue reading

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Food Otherwise Markets @Forum

Food Otherwise poster


The Farmer’s markets are back with a new focus! Meet local farmers and buy locally produced food at the Campus during lunch on May 24th and June 28th.

‘De Voedselkaravaan’ (Food Caravan) is travelling throughout the country and will also role into Wageningen in September this year. Before that time, we can already invite you to two Local Farmer’s Markets, which will turn the barren lands in front of Forum building at university campus into a lively and colourful space.

Keep an eye on this page for updates 🙂 and see our fb events

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Internship Opportunity: Farm Experience Internship 2018

vacancy FEI Intern

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