"Tell us, farmer Bartele Holtrop"

What does being a good farmer mean to you?
Healthy, happy animals. When our cattle are happy and content it makes everything work better. They’re calm and can enjoy being outside in the sun, eating their delicious feed. That’s what makes our milk so good.

In what ways do you practice sustainable farming? And what motivates you to do so?
We place a high value on natural sustainability. We try to work with nature as much as possible, by taking advantage of nature’s own rhythms whenever we can. That results in a healthy farm. A good example of this is how we let our chickens use our pasture land after the cows. Firstly, our cows graze on the grass land and leave plenty of manure behind. Then the chickens forage for the insects which are attracted to the manure. As they do so they root up old plants, allowing new plants the room to grow and completing the growing cycle. This reflects our vision, which is “creating a farm which can exist for 1,000 years”. This is only possible if we make optimal use of the strengths of nature itself and implement good agricultural practices.

What else does being a farmer mean to you personally?
Many things. It’s really important to us that the agricultural ‘story’ gets told. We do so primarily through social media, but we also organise open days. Next year we’re even going a step further by opening a children’s farm, so our farm will be accessible on a regular basis. This will allow us to pass on the agricultural ‘story’ to children as they play.

Why did you choose to join the cooperative?
As dairy farmers we’re reliant on the company which buys our milk. Companies which are organised into a cooperative are always better for the farmer, because at some point they were set up by farmers, so they could get a fair price for their milk.

Last but not least: what’s your favourite cheese?

All of Bastiaansen cheeses, of course :-) Because we know that they always adhere to strict quality standards, and also because we know that all the farmers associated with Rouveen work with passion and craftsmanship to have healthy cattle who produce high-quality milk. But if I have to pin myself down to one kind of cheese it would be old cheese like the Gold, that’s my favourite.