Peat meadows are characteristic to The Netherlands. In a healthy state these wetland ecosystems absorb carbon, control water quality, prevent flooding and create habitat for wildlife. However, in recent decades peat meadows have been drained for agricultural intensification. This process exposes peat soil which emits carbon and leads to soil subsidence: when the ground starts sinking.
Across peat meadow landscapes, farmers face a common problem: how to balance the need for agriculture within the natural carrying capacity of wetland ecosystems. That requires agricultural innovation as well as connecting consumers with the landscapes producing their food.
Only then can farmers ensure that peat meadows function in a healthy state while ensuring resilient food production into the future.
The Western Peat Meadows are a landscape bordered by major cities like Amsterdam, Haarlem and Utrecht. This area is characterised by a history of dairy production. Farmers have long supplied local and urban residents. Yet, many residents have little connection with the farmers - or the landscape - that puts food on their tables.
Wij.land is a local organisation working with farmers, nature organisations and entrepreneurs to connect people with farming and transform agriculture in the peat meadow landscape.
Since 2016, Wij.land has been building up a farming network. This network creates sustainable business models to connect land, cow and consumer while finding a balance between nature and farming. Together, they find a way to bring farming and ecology in balance. And through learning and exchange, farmers experiment and develop agriculture that is more nature-friendly and resilient.
More than 140 farmers work with Wij.land. The group experiments across different themes like developing herb-rich grasslands, reducing chemical input, creating fertile soil, offering habitat for biodiversity and providing people with healthy and nutritious products. The farmers learn from each other, collaborate and exchange knowledge, discovering how best to innovate farming in the region.
In this storymap you’ll go on a virtual tour to meet 6 of these farmers and learn about the solutions they are working on. As you scroll down, you’ll see the locations of their farms indicated by the red pins on the map.
“As a farmer alone it’s difficult to set something like this up, but working as a collective really makes it possible.”
“Collaboration is a good incentive. By sitting around the table and sharing ideas, processes get started faster.”
“It’s all about striking a balance. We now farm extensively and don’t have to push the limits of our land anymore, which makes for a more balanced farming business.”
Bokashi is seen as a powerful feed for soil life because soil organisms consume it faster than compost (photo credit: Tom Baas).
Farmers can make bokashi themselves, allowing them to use organic matter and improve soil health on-farm (photo credit: Tom Baas).
“Start with your connection with food and you realise that the source of what you eat lies with nature”.
“Before I was pioneering a little with soil. Now with a group of farmers together with guidance from Wij.land, we learn from each other. That's a better way to pioneer. ”
“We believe that regenerative agriculture can play an important role in a resilient peat meadow landscape where agriculture and nature go hand in hand with sustainable business models.”
Thanks to the Wij.land farmer network, more and more farmers in the Western Peat Meadows are moving towards implementing innovative agricultural practices. As the collective efforts of Wij.land’s farmer network grow, the ambition of creating a future-resilient farming in the peat meadows becomes ever more attainable.