Bridging the gap between farmer and citizen. That was the challenge of the ‘Zeeuwse Kringloop’ project launched three years ago. Dairy farmer Esther Vermue of Zeeuws Land & Viscollectief and Marleen van Oorschot and Melissa Geerse of Zeeuws Agrarisch Jongeren Kontakt (ZAJK) look back on the project with satisfaction.
Over the past three years, around ten Zeeland farmers from various backgrounds (including cattle farmers, pig farmers, fruit growers, arable farmers and fishermen) have given dozens of guest lectures at secondary schools (pre-vocational, senior general secondary/pre-university education) across the province of Zeeland. . Also, various cooking workshops and other workshops were held at the farm, visits to weekly markets and in-depth meetings.
“During the guest lectures, we told the students about who we are and what we do in our company,” says Vermu. ‘The purpose of guest lessons is mainly to get students to think for themselves about where their food comes from and what they can choose. For example, a cow not only produces milk but is important for many other things. Usually students don’t think about it. So, it is better to tell them about this.’
Rejected as polluter
The ‘Zeeuwse Kringloop’ project emerged three years ago from a partnership between ZAJK, Zeeuws Land & Viscollectief and Scalda Groen with the aim of getting farmers and citizens to get to know each other better. ‘We had a feeling that the farmers were not being properly understood and the citizens were being misled by many parties. For example, in school textbooks, farmers were portrayed as polluters. It bothered us a lot. “Not many people know what goes on in a farm,” notes the dairy farmer.
Communication with citizens and local residents is very important for farmers
‘We wanted to change that. At that time, ZAJK was already working on setting up a similar project, but we were not aware of it. Then we communicated with each other and with Skalta Groen through the province of Zeeland. We looked for the necessary sponsors and started working together to set up the ‘Zeeuwse Kringloop’ project,” explains Vermu.
Motivation and motivation
Van Oorschot and Geerse stress that the ‘Zeeuwse Kringloop’ project is primarily intended to motivate and inspire citizens. ‘We don’t want to force an opinion on people, but we want to make them think about where their food really comes from. “Consumers are aware of the fact that they can buy apples or pears in the supermarket from their home country or from New Zealand,” says Keirs.
Communication workshops were also offered to groups of Scalda Groen students, Geerse says. ‘Communication with citizens and local residents is very important for farmers. Especially when it comes to showing what they do, they are proud of what they accomplish in their work. That is why at Scalda Groen we have offered a communication workshop for students studying contract work, agriculture and animal husbandry courses. It helps a lot if they pass this on in a good way to those around them.’
A good image of companies
Van Oorskoot estimates that around 1,200 students in Zeeland have been introduced to the agricultural sector through the ‘Zeeuwse Kringloop’ project. ‘I have also given several guest lectures myself. Many people pass by farms every day but have no idea what is going on there. By showing and explaining things, they get a good picture of organizations.’
Even though the project is closed, van Oerskot hopes Zeeland students will learn lessons about farming life. ‘We provided schools with forty teaching kits with games about agriculture. Other teaching materials went to Clausboren. We hope to make a good impression on young people in Zeeland’s agricultural sector.’
The importance of the ‘Zeeuwse Kringloop’ to the younger generation
The ‘Zeeuwse Kringloop’ project was developed through the cooperation of various parties. Zeeland Agricultural Youth Contact, Zeeuws Land & Viscollectief and Scalda have come together to bridge the gap between farmers and citizens. The aim is for farmers and citizens to get to know each other better. Emphasis is given to the younger generation during the programme. This LEADER project receives grants from the province of Zeeland and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Teaching materials can be found here zeeuwsekringloop.nl.
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