September 2007 - Slagenland returns visit to Audomarois
The Agricultural Nature Association Slagenland from Noord-Brabant paid a return visit to the Audomarois area in North West France. There they learned that the French market gardeners work under unfavourable conditions and are seeking for more added values, for instance by branding artichokes and cauliflower.
In July people from the Lifescape partner Parc National Régional (PNR) des Caps et Marais d'Opale visited the Langstraat area in Noord-Brabant. In September the farmers of the Agricultural Nature Association Slagenland near Waalwijk returned the visit to see how the traditional, intensive but small scale cauliflower growers work on the wet and open polder landscape that is characteristic for the Audomarois region.
Cauliflower growing started in the region around Saint Omer around 1600 and until now twice a year cauliflower are harvested. The cauliflower growers work under not all together favourable conditions. In the winter the fields are flooded, which prevents infestations of nematodes and bacterial diseases, but the farmers themselves have to pay for this rather radical form of pest and disease control.
Together with the PNR the farmers in the region work on broadening their supply of vegetables and search for more added values. They search for ways to convert their businesses from growing only cauliflower to offering a whole range of vegetables. An example was the marketing of a special variant of artichoke with the brand name of the PNR, and the initiative of four farmers who exploit a farmer's shop that sells vegetables and meat. The visitors from Brabant were impressed, though only twenty per percent of the meat could be sold through the farmers shop.
The new initiatives to broaden the vegetable supply of the Audomarois cauliflower growers and branding and marketing their produce as regional products that are a result of sustainable land management is not the only solution to come to a sustainable future, according to Herbert Diemont of Alterra, the other Lifescape partner organising the exchange between the Langstraat and the Audomarois region. If we want to realise a viable agricultural enterprise which contributes to the enhancement of the rural landscape and its rich biodiversity, stated Diemont, we have to think how to compensate the entrepreneurs for the limitations their businesses operate in, like the flooding of the cauliflower fields.