Exactly one year ago on October 1, thousands of tractors rode to the Malieveld in The Hague. It had been decades since the agriculture-related sectors had organized a protest uniting all the sub-sectors and generations. The cause: the ongoing negative attitude towards farmers, who are very often already facing difficult circumstances. Although it is a shame that it had to come this far, the fact that there was a sense of unity for the first time in very long is something I see as positive.
In difficult times, we need to be able to count on each other, even across borders. Because there are less and less of us, here in the countryside, it seems that we find ourselves in a minority position in the face of powerful NGOs and politics more and more often. That is why I didn’t need to think long when Farmers of Europe asked me to write a column: of course I wanted to help! What we need now more than ever is unity. After all, we often face the same problems and frustrations, but also have the same passions and interests.
And even if the farms in our various countries may look different, the basis is the same: taking care of the animals and the land in order to feed our population. I am proud of our agricultural sector, which is constantly changing. Once again, society demands a lot from us, and most citizens do not see what we are already doing to produce sustainable food. That is why I consider it my mission as a farmer to connect the citizen more with our sector. If we can all convince a few people of our good intentions, we will end up with a whole cluster of people who understand how we produce our food. And on that basis, we will be able to build our future. Together.
I personally dislike high fences and gates, although I realize that sometimes this is necessary in these unusual times. The question is how transparent we need to be in order to restore public confidence, because no matter how well our previous generations have done, we are 30 years behind with regards to marketing and promoting (for) our sector. So it’s about time we all joined forces. Traditional and organic farmers, producers of animal-based or plant-based products.
We can’t live without each other, but we can strengthen each other. By communicating respectfully with and about each other, we can achieve more positivity. I dream of a world in harmony, where there is room for all beliefs and values, where they are respected, and where we can respect each other. Because we all do our best and work towards responsible food production for future generations.
Mariëlle Schalk (32), her husband Wim, her brother Ron, her mother Greet and her father Christ run the laying hen company “‘t Kakelhof” in Meer (Belgium), near the Dutch border, with the help of external employees. They have 5 stables, with a total of 220.000 laying hens. The farm also has an extensive vending machine shop, with eggs from its own hens, supplemented with products from colleagues in the neighbourhood. Mariëlle is committed to positive and sustainable agriculture.