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Not in a boring indoor place, but among cows, sheep and pigs. On-farm childcare is gaining in popularity, as are the LTO and Agricultural Childcare (VAK) brands. But strict regulations stand in the way of the further development of agricultural childcare.

Rene Kasander and Zed Vassil (PZC)

October 21 2022

Petra Bloom Childcare Veld-Zicht in action. Photo: Bim Mall

Stay away from incentives. Nice outside among the animals. For more parents, the ideal conditions to deliver their children outside school hours. Numbers. In 2007, only 20 agricultural companies had shelters nationwide. This number has now grown to 263. The sales volume has increased from 4 million to 115 million per year. In addition, most growers and horticulturalists have to deal with large waiting lists.

The growing popularity of agricultural childcare is no surprise to Haneke Heppur of Kindrupfang de Arc in Zevenhoven. She started her company in 2011. At that time there was still room for 16 children. Her children’s care now includes more than 50 places. She says in, “If I wanted, I could get 50 back in no time.” PZC. But Heyboer doesn’t do that because she wants to stay small. “This is magic. I know all children and parents.”

“More space, lots outside, in the stable when it rains, lots of exercise, hands in the sand and animal handling”

Ferry Rijnsburger, Sr

Increased interest in childcare on farms

Space, being outside, contact with animals and the beautiful view. According to Heyboer, LTO, and several parents, the reasons for preferring farm childcare over “regular” childcare. Caroline Hobbs, LTO Noord Board Member: “Children in residential areas experience very little in these aspects.”

It was clear from the start to Nieuwkooper Ferry Rijnsburger and his partner that his two daughters would be going to the farmer’s shelter a few days a week. It is a mixture of mind and feeling. I grew up in Boulder myself. This has an added value. More space, lots of space outside, in the stable when it rains, lots of exercise, hands in the sand and animal handling.”

For years Petra Blom has been running a childcare facility on their dairy farm in Hekendorp, with her husband Hein. She now provides training to other farmers herself. Teach them how to keep their company healthy. Blom notes that there is a growing interest in looking after children on the farm. “I support the initiators of this. I teach farmers to think outside the box.”

Read also: Farmer, Entrepreneur and Neighbor: Challenge helps dairy farmers with future plans

It is difficult to obtain a permit to take care of agricultural children

For farmers, childcare is a welcome addition to their income. There is hardly a farmer who does not practice multifunctional agriculture, as it is called by the word expensive. A study by Wageningen University & Research in October 2020 showed that the number of farms that have other sources of income in addition to raising cattle or pigs is growing strongly. Half of the farmers now combine farming and other commercial activities.

The Agriculture and Horticultural Organization notes that in many municipalities it is still difficult to obtain a permit for agricultural childcare. The emergence of this form of childcare is still relatively new. Another problem in the eyes of the LTO: the regulations regarding multifunctional farming. It is still very rigid, which makes it difficult for entrepreneurs who want to expand to exchange animals for children. The LTO is calling on municipalities to deal with this matter more flexibly.

“The farmers are now being significantly reduced in size and in this way their lack of income can be compensated for.”

Gjalt Jellesma, Child Welfare Organization Boink

Urgent shortage of child care is beneficial

Childcare Boink is very positive about the growing number of childcare farms, says President Gjalt Jellesma. “I think it is very beneficial for both the condition of the farmers and the severe shortage of childcare. The farmers are now being greatly reduced in size and in this way their lack of income can be compensated for. For the children, a place with a lot of space and small animals is of course very nice and you fill in the shortage of A little space.”

Gilsma knows that childcare is not set up like this 1-2-3. “Of course there are a lot of things to arrange. There are machines, animals and digging, so you have to make the farm safe for the kids. In addition, a lot of permits and the like are needed. However, you see that the farmers, who are often the same Very adventurous, they deal with it very professionally and seriously. This process has been going on for about twenty years and we have no indication so far that it is more dangerous than the ‘normal’ nursery in the city.”

Also read: Dragons’ Den investment helps nanny platform Nanny Nina in Seville, Antwerp and Dublin

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