By Michelle Steggerda, MSc Organic Agriculture Wageningen University
From March till July 2015 I’ve done my internship at the research institute Alterra. Alterra is part of Wageningen University and Research Centre and specializes in the ecology, the spatiality and the governance of green spaces. My assignment was to conduct a research about the future perspectives for farmers in Amstelland, a peri-urban but still predominant agricultural area located south of Amsterdam. This was part of a larger project for the Wageningen UR Science Shop on behalf of the civil society organisation Stichting Beschermers Amstelland.
For my research I conducted 17 interviews with four different types of farmers in the area. And I also stayed at one farm for a week to help along and to get more acquainted with their way of life. As a result I was able to identify four farm development strategies: scale-enlargement in specialized dairy farming, optimization of the nutrient-cycle, combining farming with off-farm income generating activities (pluri-activity) and combining different on-farm income generating activities (broadening).
The end of the milk quota system in Europe offered dairy farmers new opportunities to invest in an substantial expansion of their farm businesses. Although the Amstelland area has its limits, some farmers still pursue this conventional growth strategy. Other farmers however stressed the limits of this growth model. They opted for the optimization of the nutrient cycle and economic grassland management in combination payments for nature and landscape management activities. In a peri-urban area as Amstelland, pluri-activities are an appealing option to some farmers. Not only to generate additional income but also to increase work pleasure and variation. Although the market potential for broadening has high potential, most farmers do not see it as an attractive option yet. It requires major investments as they argue and the perceived risks are high. The relative low level of broadening activities in Amstelland can also be due to the predominance of production volume oriented farmers and as a consequence the lack of entrepreneurial spirit and development of skills related to broadening.
My findings will be integrated in a final project report by Alterra and thus input for a scenario workshop where stakeholders are invited brainstorm on the future of Amstelland.