Today the group was fortunate to travel out into to country side of the Netherlands, approximately 1 hour from Amsterdam. This area was beautiful, one could see herds of sheep grazing lush green grass between endless fresh water canals. While visiting the countryside we stopped to visit two organic farms. The first farm we stopped at specialized in organic milk production and milked a herd of 67 cows. They had have recently opened a new facility where they make butter and cheese that is sold locally in the countryside and at farm markets in the cities. The family was nice enough to host a lunch that consisted of: Four kinds of farm fresh cheese, 4 kinds of meats produced from on farm cattle, pumpkin soup, various breads, and of course farm fresh milk. We had an information discussion on the agriculture policy of the Netherlands, specifically the history and trends of dairy farming. As in the United States, organic milk brings a higher market price than conventionally produced milk. The organic milk price is almost double that of conventional milk. From this reason there is an incentive to produce organically. The dairy farms in the Netherlands have size restriction, depending on the amount of land on the farm and the ammonium produced on that farm. To me this was a funny way to say you can only have a certain number of cattle on a specified amount of land. An interesting fact about dairies in the Netherlands compared to dairies in the US, in the Netherlands the cows are kept completely indoors for 6 months out of the year. During the winter the cows will not leave a free stall barn setting. The farm said the reasoning for this was not the cold climate but rather the softness of the peat/organic type soil. If cattle are allowed to graze in the wet months of the year they will completely destroy the pastures they graze, causing erosion issues for the remainder of the winter and feeding issues in the spring and summer months.
The second location we visited specialized in organic goat milk production and operated an on farm care facility for early stage Alzheimer patients. The care facility was open 5 days a week and cared for 12 people each day. During the day the patients participated in activities such as painting, cooking, countryside walks, light farm activity, companionship of dogs and farm animals, or whatever they pleased to stay active. All patients were from nearby areas and were picked up daily from their homes by the farm owners. This farm also produced their own cheese and milked a herd of 40 goats. The farm also had free range chickens producing quality organic eggs.
We were all fortunate to be able to see these specialized operations in action and would be pleased to visit with the friendly folks again!