Farmer Annie, 76, is not thinking of stopping: ‘Don’t be a pathetic old man’

Her husband, Anton, died four years ago. Soon real estate agents were on the phone. “They asked about my condition, but they were only interested in my land. You really don’t want to sell? They asked. Well, no, never. Soil and cheese, they should be left there for as long as possible.”

It’s Annie Spoegbrook all the way. She may be 76 years old, and not an iota on her mind is considering leaving the farm. “Well, no. What are you going to do with your time then?”

She was born on lease in Dordtse Biesbosch. There was no running water, heating or electricity. “When I went to feed the cows with my mother in the evening, I lit them with an oil lamp.”

Sober guys

There was no road connected to the farm either. “To go to school, I went to the beach by paddle boarding. There I took my bike which was parked by the neighbours.” She only says: Her childhood was frugal. In turn, she now lives a luxurious life, you think. “I can take a step back in terms of comfort if I have to.”

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Annie still does a lot of work on her own. It handles well with its own devices. “The contractor only comes for machines that don’t make a profit to own it.”

28 horses

But we are not there yet. And she doesn’t have much time to think about this either, because there is work to be done. Red beets have been harvested, so it’s quiet for a while. But the horse industry is always going on. She has 28 horses, but she adds that this is a shot. “If I go to the horse market, I might come home with a new horse at the end of the day.”

The animals must be fed and cared for daily, and they regularly give riding lessons. She does not want to describe her life as busy. It used to be, when everything was still manual. “Take potatoes or beets, for example. Now a contractor can do it in a day that used to take us weeks.”

Sunday after free animal care

However, it has slowed down a bit. “After my husband passed away, I went to work seven days a week because I had to do everything on my own. But after a while, I also wanted some free time. Now my son helps me with feeding in the morning and I also have a Sunday off after looking after animals. Not for faith It’s for myself.” The other six days she was busy on the farm. It always was. “Vacation, we didn’t. My husband would rather see a beautiful horse than sit on a plane and I felt the same way.”

We bought the land with our own money

The company built with him. For the first few years they lived in a portable wooden house in the yard until they earned enough to build a house. “Because that’s how we did it, we didn’t borrow anything. We also bought the land with our own money. You can see how much land you have with borrowed money, but it has to be paid. Actually, the land is not yours but the land of the bank, well, you can’t earn much So “.
However, this has been the way many companies have grown in recent decades. Annie watched this development with mixed feelings. “Having 240 cows, with the support of the bank and the government, and then being surprised by the emergence of environmental problems. Everyone should have seen this coming, right? Why didn’t the government do anything?”

The red beet has now been harvested.  Annie wasn't too busy with that.
The red beet has now been harvested. Annie wasn’t too busy with that. “In the past, when everything was done by hand, we were busy. Now the contractor is ready in one day.”

A company close to the nature reserve

Her own company is located near the Bisbush Nature Reserve. She doesn’t know what the nitrogen-reducing rules will mean for her future. She also does not know if one of her three sons will take over the company later. “We’ll see when it comes down to that,” she says. Anyway, you’re still at the helm for now. Alone without Anton. His death was not unexpected. “It wasn’t the right color, and then I knew. Cancer, yeah. The light gradually went out.” Shortly after his death, her sister also died and then her granddaughter committed suicide. “So don’t talk to me about confusion, because I know all about it. But yes, you have to keep going. You have to make the most of it.”

I am a positive person. You don’t have to complain about everything

collision with tractor

And she did, even now that she’s in the junk basket after hitting the tractor. Although she still does a lot of the tractor work herself, this time someone else was driving. At one point, she went in the wrong direction and Annie was pulled with the door open. “Now I am temporarily using a walker to walk. My left leg hurts a lot, otherwise I am fine. It will heal again.” In the meantime, she’s choosing what she can do, like managing VAT. She has always had this attitude. “I am a positive person. Just don’t complain about everything. I always say like this: I choose something, make something out of it.”

She has not been alone since the death of her loved ones. People come every day and anyone who wants can join in the big bowl of pea soup you’re cooking. “Of course I have questions about whether I should start dating again. But I don’t need that at all. I don’t need anyone with me to command me. I’m not a pathetic or helpless old woman, beautiful.”

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