Greenhouse Visit

Good day from the Netherlands!

After a high quality hotel breakfast, the fellows ventured north to one of the largest orange pepper growers in all of the Netherlands.  After about an hour long bus ride, we could tell we were likely in the right area, with all of the massive greenhouses dotting the landscape.  We arrived on site nearly half an hour early, so it was a unanimous decision to go ahead and continue our napping session on the bus.  Not long after however, we were greeted by a very brightly dressed Dutch woman with more than enough energy to wake up a bunch of half-asleep college students!

Petra Barendse, one of the owners of Bezoek AgriPort, was kind enough to show us around her business that her and her husband built from the ground up.  Their business is made up of three greenhouses, all 10 hectares in size in which two are used for orange pepper production and the other for some very delicious cherry tomatoes (we know; we tried them).  IMG_0447During our time walking through one of the greenhouses, it was incredible to see how much was being produced.  After all, you can plant a large number of vegetables when you have 25 acres under one climate controlled roof!

During the tour, we were able to take some time to sit down with Petra and have a nice conversation about how her and her husband started the business and how the area where they currently live and do business, became a vegetable production powerhouse.  Prior to all of the greenhouses moving into the area, the land actually all sat empty after farmers in the local area were no longer able to make a living.  Petra, her family and friends, all came out to the area and decided it would be a great place to increase the size of their operations.  Petra’s business along with her friends’ greenhouse production businesses formed what it now known as AgriPort.  From an aerial view, this area is very impressive with 25 acre greenhouses spanning across the area.  All of the businesses belonging to AgriPort come together to discuss marketing strategies, more efficient methods of production and as a result, succeed as a collective unit.

Later on in the afternoon, we were able to take some time to work on the presentation we will be giving to industry leaders in Washington D.C., early next week.  It seems crazy that we are getting down to the final days of our trip here in the Netherlands.  As we expected, it has flown by and there have been countless memories made!

We can’t wait to be back on American soil and share our experiences from the trip of a lifetime!IMG_0464


Seed Valley

Today started really early as it was a busy but very exciting and informational day for us all! We had the opportunity to visit Seed Valley, a business structure designed after Silicon Valley in the United States, as well as round out the day at a concert in Amsterdam.

Just to give a little background on Seed Valley; it is a 21 company cooperative that is working to develop a sustainable, vital, high-quality, and innovative business sector by investing in its image, skilled workers, innovation, and experience sharing. We had the opportunity to visit 4 of the companies that are involved in Seed Valley and their role in the seed industry.

IMG_0250We began our day at Enza Zaden a family owned Dutch vegetable breeding company. They are the #6 breeding company in the world and the fastest growing vegetable seed company. Enzo Zaden is very persistent on being family owned and continuing to be independent from banking organizations now and in the future. We had the opportunity to sit down and discuss agriculture with one member of their board of directors. He discussed how the main focuses of their company is to invest in R & D as well as in their employees. Lastly, Enza really stresses how important the environment is on their agenda and how that they don’t believe that they need GMOs because there are better ways to do it!

IMG_0277The next stop was at Sygenta where we had the opportunity to learn about their seed development processes as well as tour their facilities. They gave us a lot of information about how they plan to streamline their processes to decrease the time it takes to develop more varieties as well as the challenges they may face when looking to expand/acquire new business operations. We had the opportunity to visit one of their seed testing labs as well as a greenhouse where they are growing resistant seeds.

IMG_0313Our third stop of the day was to Incotec an international company that doesn’t breed seeds but rather provide services such as film coating, priming, allocation of actives & additives, etc. We were given a breakdown of all of the different processes that occur to perform their services. They also provided us with a tour of their facilities to better understand how they cater their services to the customer’s demands. Incotec’s biggest business is currently in vegetables but they are looking to grow in their film coating operations in the near future!

IMG_0316Lastly, but definitely not least, we finished off our Seed Valley excursion with Monsanto where we had the opportunity to learn about their vegetable business also! Monsanto was more focused on the entire process than just one specific part. They also provided with us a lot of insight into how the exporting process is, along with all the regulations they needed to follow and what kind of mess you can have it just one little thing isn’t right. We ultimately had a great day at Seed Valley and learned lots and lots about vegetable seed production!

After finishing up at Seed Valley we quickly rushed back to the hotel to grab a quick bite to eat and get even more spiffy to head out for the night at a concert. Definitely not the type of concert you might think, but I think it’s safe to say we all really enjoyed ourselves! The concert we had the opportunity to attend was at Concertgebouw, called a Scandinavian Evening: Mustonen, Grieg, and Nielsen. Concertgebouw is the largest and most visited concert hall in the world and had a very amazing composer and orchestra to perform for us!

Well here’s to another great day in Holland! Hard to believe how fast time has flow in the past two weeks, to think we will all be heading back to D.C. in just a few short days. We are looking forward to tomorrow and getting to spend the day at the world’s largest orange pepper greenhouse!

Kayla Seidler, North Dakota State University

Visit to Cargill

Today we had the opportunity to tour two of Cargill’s processing facilities here in the Netherland’s. We were excited to see the facilities of a company we are familiar with located in a foreign region. Cargill is also a corporate partner with AFA so it was interesting to see what our partners do internationally.

We first visited a multiseed plant located just outside of Amsterdam. Here we received a brief overview of Cargill in Europe, and learned that Cargill has eleven locations and over 2000 employees in Holland alone. We also learned about the many different issues that American companies have when expanding in new locations. These included social differences, political policies, and sometimes even wars or unrest that can occur in countries.

The multiseed facility is an oil seed processing that focuses mainly on sunflower seeds, but also have the capability to process canola if needed. At the facility they receive their grain by ship at a deep water port. They process the grain through a series of steps into either crude oil, meal, or food-grade oil. This particular facility can process 1800 metric tons of material every day.

It was very interesting to tour the plant and see the process from being unloaded off of the boat to being able to taste the final sunflower oil produced. The tour guides explained to us that sunflower oil is in very high demand right now in this area due to its health benefits and low cost.

After lunch we traveled to a Cargill soy processing facility that is actually located very close to the city center of Amsterdam. This facility has gotten some pressure to move away from this area due to city expansion, but plan to continue operating here for in the near future. This plant specialized in the processing of soybeans into oil and meal.

IMG_0219The grain received here is also delivered by ship from around the world. The plant was also very impressive to view even though it rained on us during the tour. The plant manager was also able to answer many of our questions about GMO and NON-GMO soy products in the European market place.


I particularly enjoyed these tours today since I have agreed to take a position with Cargill as a production supervisor trainee upon graduation this May. It was amazing and exciting to the see the company that I have chosen to start my career with in an international location. It also made me very proud of my chose to join Cargill.

IMG_0217Ryan Hanousek, University of Nebraska Lincoln

Enjoying Wageningen & U.S. Embassy Visit

To finish the day on Tuesday we were able to attend a yearbook presentation celebration, for one of the student groups at the university. The celebration was very unique in that the organization creates a yearbook every year of its events, and also contains stories written by the numerous members. At the celebration they had a book signing by the editors and enjoyed each other’s company while they looked through their new books.

wageningenThis morning we had some free time to walk around Wageningen. A few students went back to the university grounds to walk around more of the building and visit the gift shop. The other part of the group including myself walked through the main streets and visited shops that lined both sides. It was unique here that many of the items were on sale after the holiday season. There sales are very different than ours though. Many sales in the stores only occur once a year and have huge discounts associated with them. This is different when compared to at home, when sales can happen almost every week and many times are for only a small discount.

After grabbing a bite in one of the local restaurants we jumped on the bus, and traveled to The Hague. The Hague is the key diplomatic and policy center for the Netherlands. Many foreign embassies and other policy organizations are located here. The world courts are also located in The Hague.

US EmbassyAt The Hague we visited the United Sates Embassy to talk to Dutch officials about agricultural policy. The main topic was about Smart Climate Farming. This topic is especially important since the decision made in Paris last month about international climate change mitigation. In this agreement agriculture has a central role to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions while still providing food for a growing world.

The possible consequences of climate change have a direct implication to the agricultural field. Models show that climate change can possibly create more arid land, a higher occurrence of severe weather events, and an increase in the amount of diseases affecting crops around the world. Agriculture also is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, contributing about 20-25 percent of global emissions.

These issues have helped to spark the idea of Smart Climate Agriculture. Smart Climate Agriculture consists of three emphasis areas. These areas are possibilities to improve the agriculture industry to become more climate friendly. The three areas are produce a more sustainable food supply through better practices and management, reduce CO2 emissions of agricultural production, and work in production agriculture to produce crops in a way that are more resilient to severe weather events.

Farmers and policy makers are working together to tackle this climate change issues by using the Smart Climate Change model. The Dutch have been able to already get results with this approach. They have cut agriculturally produced CO2 emissions by 27% already and plan to reach their goals ahead of schedule.

During this meeting we also discussed the many standards already put in place by the European Union on agricultural commodities. This provided us insight and opinions from the Dutch policy makers, and allowed everybody present to better understand the dynamics of European agriculture.

Ryan Hanousek
University of Nebraska Lincoln


Food Valley and Wageningen University

As we have learned throughout our time with AFA, life-long learning is a staple throughout the agriculture industry. Today’s activities were no different as we spent time at both Food Valley and Wageningen University located in central Holland.

IMG_0125Our morning began at Food Valley where international director, Jeroen Wouters, hosted our group in the Wageningen office. Established in 2004, Food Valley is an independent industry that focuses on improving innovation strength by making optimal use of their knowledge network.

As a non-profit organization, the company’s goal is to act as a facilitator between industry research, partnering companies, universities and institutions. With eight of the top 25 companies in Holland being involved in agriculture, Jeroen stressed the importance of both collaboration and innovation within Holland agriculture, and throughout the world.

IMG_0143The rest of our day was spent at the university. As visiting students at Wageningen, our group had the opportunity to attend a lecture with current students, as well as meet with Jeroen Knol, director of the European Federation of Food Science and Technology (EFFoST). IMG_0150EFFoST serves as the European umbrella for the International Federation of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST0), with its U.S. counterpart being the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).

As a global fellow, it was very interesting to hear opinions and debate ideas during both sessions. Agriculturalists in Holland face similar issues such as global food security and public opinion that we see throughout the United States. Research and development is a sector of major importance and one that is constantly changing throughout the globe. With each individual region, union and country regulating their food production and consumer marketing differently, it takes a continuing effort in order to ensure that food exported in Holland is both labeled and marketed in proper fashion.

Culturally, it was neat to see students interacting at the university just like we would back home. This experience truly solidifies that no matter where you are in the world, students throughout vast cultures enjoy similar things: laughter, knowledge, friendship, wonder and maybe just a bit of social media too!

Meg Bennett, The Ohio State University


Keukenhof and Tartare


The floriculture industry is a staple in the Netherlands. Flower suppliers export approximately €5 billion worth of flowers per year. This is one of the reasons why the Netherlands is the second largest agriculturalexporter in the world. The first being the United States.

Today the group got to visit Keukenhof, which is a non-profit floriculture exhibition that showcases tulips and other flower types every year. Visitors from all over the world, travel to see beautiful flower arrangements. We learned that approximately 75-80% travel from aboard to visit Keukenhof, and they also expect approximately 800,000 visitors per year. Keukenhof is only open 8 weeks out of the year. So this means that they are fully running during the Spring months (i.e. end of Mar-May) when the flowers bloom. To make Keukenhof each year it requires 10 months to create beautiful flower arrangements and the design. The designs of the flower arrangements change annually. The flowers are planted each year by hand as bulbs in August-November, so that they are able to flower come spring time for the visitors to see during their visit.

We also learned that it takes approximately 25 years to make a new tulip variety. Tulips can not be made in the lab, so the only way to successfully develop a new variety of tulips is by cross-pollination. The steps for developing a new breed of tulips are in the first year, plant crossing occurs, in years five and six flower color starts to develop, and finally in years 20-25 the tulips are tested for various diseases or malfunctions that would prove unnecessary for the tulip.

After we finished our tour of Keukenhof, we traveled to Wageningen, Netherlands where one of the top agricultural universities of the world is located. We foundtartare out that Wageningen is not as busy as the city of Amsterdam, but more of a quiet, calm atmosphere. Once we checked into our hotel, we had a very unique dinner from a Micpigeonhelin star chef consisting of steak tartare and pigeon.

We very much appreciated the generousity that Keukenhof gave us by opening up their doors to us during their closing time of their business cycle. We all can not wait to come back and see the beautiful flowers blooming during the Spring in our next visits to Keukenhof in the future.

Nick Neumann, The University of Missouri

Service Day!

Today the group had the opportunity to participate in a service opportunity at a local park known as the Food Forest.  This is a large group of horticulture specialists, as well as various other volunteers, that aim at creating forest land that can also be used as a source of food.  This is a multi-stage event that takes many years for the forest to reach appropriate growth for adequate food production.  Another goal of this organization is to promote and maintain biodiversity and sustainability in these forest ecosystems.  There are many of these food forests located all around the world with one of the largest located back home in the USA!

IMG_9900The forest where we did our work was in the town of Almere located approximately 30 minutes from Amsterdam.  This forest will be showcased at the event known as Floriade in 2022.  Floriade is the world’s largest horticulture expo that occurs every 10 years in the Netherlands.   This event gathers the top horticulturalist from around the world to discuss various issues surrounding the industry and highlight some of the newest products discovered in the previous 10 years.  One of the major focus areas of the upcoming expo is sustainability.  The Dutch have a very developed understanding of this topic and we all look forward to learning more from these sustainability experts.

IMG_9915Throughout the day, our group was in charge of sawing down small hazel trees, clearing brush, constructing a natural wall, and organizing wood into unique structures.  There were multiple exciting structures completed, however “Das Hut” was the premier structure of the day.

Das Hut


Others that were of merit were the home made benches constructed by pounding branches into the ground as supports for larger logs, as well as a bench that was constructed the same way one would build with Lincoln logs.  With all of our hands helping out, we manage to clear a very large area and replant some willows to assist with the transition from a normal forest into a Food Forest.



We then had the opportunity to observe a reception building that is made with as much plant material as possible.  It was also arranged for the building to run completely sustainably by generating its own electricity, recycled the waste, and purified their own water.

To close out the day, a few members of our group had the excellent pleasure of using a local laundromat.  Similar to the US, most of the equipment was less than satisfactory.  However, everyone now has fresh, clean clothes to use for the rest of the trip.

Matt Welter, Iowa State University