The Dutch farmers connecting land, consumer and cow

Meet the people who are transforming farming in the Western Peat Meadows.

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Peat meadows
Cities farmers

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. is a local organisation working with farmers, nature organisations and entrepreneurs to connect people with farming and transform agriculture in the peat meadow landscape.

Not yet familiar with this 4 Returns landscape? Learn more in this landscape story.
The Western Peat Meadows are part of a typical cultural landscape located next to major cities. However, the land and its farmers are under pressure and farmers are experimenting a new way forward.

Since 2016, 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 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.

Boy Griffioen

Boy runs the organic dairy farm De Groene Griffioen together with his wife Wendela. The farm sells milk directly to consumers in Amsterdam through More than Milk Amsterdam (MOMA). This connects urban residents to rural areas and the development of healthy landscapes next to the city of Amsterdam. City residents also visit the farm to purchase local goods directly from the shop or to take a tour to better understand organic farming. To complete the food cycle, Boy and Wendela use organic waste from the city where possible.  

“As a farmer alone it’s difficult to set something like this up, but working as a collective really makes it possible.”

Cows take their first walk of the year along the IJsselmeer dike in April.

Wendela leads a tour and explains organic dairy farming to a group of visitors.

Marten from MOMA selling organic dairy products from farms like De Groene Griffioen directly to Amsterdam city residents.

Willem-Jan Jansen

Willem-Jan runs a farm where the health of his animals is paramount. He began working with in 2016 through the Natuurmonumenten project "From Tenant to Partner". Since then, he has drastically reduced chemical fertiliser use, while searching for ways to enhance soil life on his farm. Together with other farmers, he experiments with techniques like herb-rich grasslands. In this way, Willem-Jan innovates and learns from the growing network of farmers.

“Collaboration is a good incentive. By sitting around the table and sharing ideas, processes get started faster.”

Sowing herb-rich grasslands supports soil health and enhances the ability of grasses to withstand hotter and drier summers (photo credit: Sjon Heijenga/Stichting open boek).

Diverse herbs and grasses growing together offer a nutritional diet to livestock and has the potential to create higher quality milk (photo credit: Sjon Heijenga/Stichting open boek).

Herb-rich grasslands also support soil life and provide habitat for local biodiversity such as pollinators and birds.

Wilko Kemp

Wilko manages an organic dairy farm and hopes that through working with, he will develop a stronger farm business. He met René Jochems during a farm excursion in 2016 and learned how to care for soil on agricultural land. On the bus ride home, Wilko and other farmers decided to start a soil study group. Now, Wilko is part of a group which experiment with Bokashi: a Japanese fermenting technique to turn plant matter into an organic fertiliser.  

“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 a Japanese technique to ferment grass clippings and organic matter and use it as a soil improver.

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).

Monique van der Laan

Monique manages the organic farm De Beekhoeve with her husband Koos and her four children. During a soil evening hosted by, Monique began to better understand how soil is the foundation for everything. Managing healthy soil positively impacts produce. When customers visit the farm to buy their cheese, Monique tells the story of soil and raises awareness about the source of food.
Find out more about De Beekhoeve here.

“Start with your connection with food and you realise that the source of what you eat lies with nature”.  

The Beekhoeve biological farm is located in the middle of the Green Heart: the centre of the Western Peat Meadows (photo credit: Tom Baas).

Dairy farming in the peat meadows is a fine balance; it requires maintaining the water table to keep peat locked in, while ensuring that cattle keep dry feet.

Many farmers in the area sell directly to consumers. This allows people to connect with the source of their food.

Saskia Joha

Saskia is not from a farmer family, yet wanted to be a farmer since she was young. Now, she runs Hoeve Kazan, a small-scale farm. Here, consumers buy ecologically produced grass-fed beef and lamb directly from the farmer. For Saskia, soil health is not just for the agricultural benefits but also to improve the land for meadow birds. Saskia continues to develop farming practices that are based on quality, sustainability and connection with the consumer.  
Find out more about Hoeve Kazan here.

“Before I was pioneering a little with soil. Now with a group of farmers together with guidance from, we learn from each other. That's a better way to pioneer. ”

Farmers participating in the soil trajectory with take soil samples to examine how their work enhances soil life (photo credit: Tom Baas).

Abundant life below ground creates natural soil fertility and supports plant diversity above ground.

Healthy soil and healthy grasslands reduce the need for fertlisers and pesticides.

Joost van Schie

Joost is a sixth generation farmer. He is an economist by trade and originally did not seek out the farming life. Yet in 2020 Joost moved back from the city to the countryside to explore the relationships between cows, cheese, and climate. Joost has been working with his father Jan - a farmer with 40 years' experience - to take over the family farm: the Eenzaamheid. Joost works with experts to learn about best farming practices, how to diversify income streams and how to develop the family farm into a farm for the future.
Find out more about De Eenzaamheid here.

“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.”

Since 2020 Joost has working been with his father Jan, an experienced farmer, to develop nature-friendly agriculture. The slurry tank behind them is used to create wetlands that benefit local meadow birds.

There is a lot to learn on farm and Joost combines farming with his background in economics.

Recently, Joost presented the 2040 vision for the Eenzamheid farm: a strategy for a resilient future.

The farmers working with collaborate as part of a network. There are now more than 140 farmers actively learning about how to develop farming within the Western Peat Meadow landscape. As part of this, farmers regularly meet to exchange ideas and share best practices.

Working as a network strengthens the willingness to make change happen within the landscape. By supporting each other, the group grows. And together with, they find out how to improve soil health, how to increase biodiversity, how to establish sustainable business models how to bring people into the landscape, and what it means to produce food well.

Thanks to the farmer network, more and more farmers in the Western Peat Meadows are moving towards implementing innovative agricultural practices. As the collective efforts of’s farmer network grow, the ambition of creating a future-resilient farming in the peat meadows becomes ever more attainable.

This story map is made by Commonland and to promote the work of the dedicated farmers transforming the peat meadow landscape.

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