On November 25 a group of nine representatives of the Egyptian Farmer Field School Centre of Excellence in Fayoum visited two farms in Zoeterwoude close to The Hague. The main conclusion: “We are especially impressed with the care farm! Especially the way the people with special needs are directly involved in the farming activities as co-farmers. Also the way they can improve their skills that are useful both for themselves and for society.” This encounter has resulted in the novel idea to set up a care farm in Egypt.
Organic dairy and cheese making farm
The visit of nine Egyptian visitors engaged in agricultural extension took place on Monday 25th of November, and was part of a study tour organized by Van Hall Larenstein. The first farm visited was the organic dairy and cheese making farm Kaasboerderij De Vierhuizen. In the comfortable rebuilt Haystack the group learned about the background and history of Dutch dairy farming. Then Theo and Lidia van Leeuwen, organic dairy farmers and cheese makers, explained all about their farming system, impressive dairy cows and prize winning cheese making activities, that provide extra income. Monday was day for selling cheese, and Lidia attended numerous costumers while the visit took place.
Over 1000 care farms in the Netherlands
In the afternoon the neighbouring care farm De Boerderijn was visited. Paulien van Rijn together with one of the co-farmers explained the care farm concept in the Netherlands, including the role of volunteers and the way the government provides financial support. The Netherlands counts with over 1000 care farms – organised in the Federation of Care Farms, and in spite of government financial cuts this number is still growing.
De Boerderijn grew out of a conventional dairy farm of Paulien and her husband in 2002. While going round this well equipped care farm, the positive effect of the work on the farm for the small groups of children with mental disabilities, and adults with psychiatric problems became evident. They were involved in different activities, such as bicycle repair, taking care of rabbits, or preparing stables for young calves, under the guidance of special staff and volunteers. The farm keeps young dairy stock, rabbits and other animals, while in the summer a vegetable and flower garden provides organic produce for direct sale to consumers.
The way this care farm is taking care of both the environment and people with special needs was especially impressive for the Egyptian group: “We are impressed with the way they are put to work according to the talent of each person, and the volunteers and staff help them to become successful in society. Attention is paid to quality rather than quantity.”