The Netherlands - Nuffield Scholars Conference Update

Almost 36 hours after leaving New Zealand, we arrived in Amsterdam at 6:00 am February 25th.  We took a train to Rotterdam, then a bus to our hotel where we met up with all of the 2012 Nuffield Scholars.  Over the past 3 days, I’ve gotten to know farmers from the UK, Ireland, France, India, Australia, New Zealand, and of course, Canada.

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We kicked off our activities with a bus trip into the country side.  In true Dutch tradition, we stopped in the coastal town of Volendam for tasting of smoked herring.  We then travelled to an innovative dairy farm where they milk 150 cows and have a biodigester and a wind turbine on the farm.  The biodigester is connected to a pipeline to the local town where the gas is used to generate electricity and the excess heat is reclaimed to heat neighbouring houses.

While travelling in this area, I noticed the a huge number of large wind turbines.  If anyone is interested in understanding the impact of wind turbines on communities and individuals, this has got be the place to find out.  Many of the turbines have been up and running for over 10 years and are often situated very close to houses.  It appears that some farmers chose to place the turbines on the edge of their farm yard to avoid having it in the middle of their fields.

The most fascinating part of our time in the Netherlands has been a trip the Flora Holland, the largest flower auction in the world.  Every year, over $4.1 BILLION EURO per year of flowers are sold through this grower owned cooperative.  They process 125,000 transactions per day and ship 12 billion flowers and 600 million potted plants per year. These numbers are hard to imagine.  The stat that really gets me is that they handle more than 20,000 varieties of flowers!

We’ve met with and heard from several Dutch agricultural leaders in the dairy, flower, and hog industry.  All of these leaders have contributed to their successful business by focussing on providing a product or service that is completely in tune with their customer.  Their business have successfully adapted to evolving markets and economic situations.In the words of one of our speakers: ‘ PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR CUSTOMER, THEY ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO PAYS’.  Another common trait I noticed is that the they leaders are confident optimists.  In the words of another speaker: ‘NEVER WATER ON THE SEED OF DOUBT’.

Tomorrow night we head to London, England for the second half of the 2012 Nuffield Contemporary Scholars Conference.

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