That being the case, when Esther saw a flyer last week in a local organic supermarket (one of the Dutch Ekoplaza chain) for an organic farm open day, "The Taste of Bio" event organised by Ekologisch, we knew this would be something we'd enjoy. We also realised that even though we try to buy organic neither of us really knew what the difference in the growing process was when it came to the fruit and veg you buy in the shops. Time to find out.
|Following the knooppunt markers|
First impressions were a bit underwhelming as there were only about 10-12 stalls, but the farm itself and the tour we got more than made up for it. It was fascinating. The farmer himself gave the tour and we got the impression he was a bit of a poster boy for the organic supermarkets here as he was youngish, easy to listen to and very passionate about what he did.
Surprisingly, he told us that there wasn't a lot of difference in the time or cost it took to grow the plants to harvest compared to non-organic. I'd always assumed that non-organic would be much quicker, but as long as the nutrients are in the soil the plant grows just as quickly. What changes is how you put them there, and how you make sure pests don't spoil the crop.
Unsurprisingly he could only produce crops that were in season. He couldn't grow tomatoes, for example, in winter as he couldn't illuminate them and keep them warm artificially, which is one of the big advantages of non-organic growing where they can produce continuously from the same patch of earth by keeping the soil topped up with the perfect balance of fertiliser for the plants they grow.
When some questioned the price of organic food (the Dutch can be very direct!) the farmer countered by saying that it did take more work, but mostly that if the price of staple foods wasn't kept artificially low by the farm subsidies the price of vegetables and fruits in general wouldn't look so high in the first place which I think is a good point that I'll probably try and remember to do some research on sometime.
Anyway, after much questioning in the sauna of the greenhouse (I can't imagine harvesting celery all day in that heat!) we moved outside to be told about his lettuce, pumpkin, beetroot and extra celery growing. It was a much bigger area outside. The only other machinery he could use, in addition to a mechanical plough, was a pump to stop the land flooding as this part of Holland was so low and waterlogged otherwise. Outside he had to rotate his crop to keep the soil quality high; his land was divided into four sections so for example only once every 4 years his pumpkins would grow in the same place.
It really was fascinating and after 45 minutes or so we'd learned a lot more about what 'Organic' actually meant. We wandered around and browsed the stalls picking up some fruit and veg picked that day from his farm and sat in the now baking sunshine and enjoyed some real 'Dutch' music. This basically means one guy playing an accordion and another on the guitar singing folk songs on a bench. What's the best thing about this is not just that the songs are fun, but that when you see a Dutch music video on the telly it usually looks exactly like this - they tend not to spend lots of money on lights and extras for their music videos.
By mid-afternoon we hit the road and made our way back in the sunshine. Windmill spotting had to be suspended as we couldn't remember which ones we'd seen and which ones we hadn't, but they were still good to look at and in no time at all we were back in the Hague and enjoying a salad made from food that had been in the ground that morning. It was very satisfying day.