Circular Mixed Company: “Happy Animals, Happy People, Happy Us”

Next year, Klein-Graffel will celebrate its centenary. But Ineke Hissink-Kapper (53) and René Hissink (56) come from much larger farming families. “History is part of our existence,” says Ineke. “The first written text on Rene’s farming family dates back to 1220, and it is the family text of my family from about 1500.” Ineke knows all about the history of farm life in and around Zutphen and the wider area.

History is part of our existence

As a farmer and chairwoman of the Open Monumentendag Zutphen, board member of the historical association and VVV city guide, she says: “Because we want to farm independently, just like our ancestors, we switched from a dairy farm to a circular mixed farm three years ago. With beef cattle and viable farming For farming, farm shop and education. We are now farming almost circularly.”

Going “organic”: in 2019 things changed, in 2020 the couple opened a shop in the barn with their products and products from the surrounding area. It’s not fancy, but it’s good, says Ineke: “We’d prefer to see people buy meat and dairy from here themselves, so we can show you what we’re doing right away. The flow to the store is growing, and both people and the catering industry are interested.”

Lakenvelders and pork

Hissinks had MRIJ (Maas-Rijn-IJssel) cows. They are now fertilized by Lakenvelder’s bull and have purchased more Lakenvelder pairs. Now they have over a hundred Lakenvelder cows and a bull. They graze around the farm, in nature reserves along the IJssel and in the meadows of Zutphen. The calves stay with the mother until it is no longer safe for the cows. Calf milk and Lakenvelder cheese. They slaughter at their discretion and according to the customer’s request.

They also have about forty fattening pigs, a Duroc x Berkshire cross. These are slow growers that do well outdoors. You can see the pigs’ meadow from the road, the animals attract a lot of visitors, and the picnic table next to the meadow is used with passion. About fifty chickens are in cages now, but other than that, they are also looking for food outside.

Rene and Enke Hisink changed course. In 2020, the couple opened a shop in the barn with their products and produce from the surrounding area. “Not fancy, but good.”

Crop rotation, barley and beer

Their land of more than 80 hectares provides enough space for circular farming. “I exchange crops for animals and sometimes we sell something to our fellow farmers,” says Rene. “We have enough, there is no need to buy more. Potatoes, pasture land, hay and own straw. We spread manure on our land. This year we have some fodder beets again – last month the pigs moved to this beet country. They can harvest them themselves. We grow Widely, so we also use more space than before.”

Ineke is proud of last year’s barley. Locally brewed and two new beers are now on the market: Klein Graffelsbok and Blonde d’Ineke, brewed from barley by a local brewer. The grain consumed for the brewery goes to the cattle.

Agricultural knowledge of Dutch farmers

The new-style mixed circular farm is growing gradually and that is the goal, says Ineke: “The two of us are on the farm and I also have a job as a personnel consultant. We both have managerial jobs in social and cultural life. We are farmers at heart. As a little girl, I already helped with milking and selling Milk bottles in town with my dad. So for me it was basically getting used to the fact that now the milk is for the calves and we only use a small part of the cheese. Understand, I’m proud of every farmer, whatever his choices are. You have to farm the way that works for you.”

Dutch farmers have the most agricultural knowledge in the world.

Dutch farmers have the most agricultural knowledge in the world. Few citizens and administrators realize how much of their knowledge and skills come from farming. I get very angry when someone decides the future of farmers who don’t even know how much a liter of milk costs and why.”

Farm Education at Klein-Graffel

Renee’s father began his agricultural education forty years ago: since then, classes have regularly come to Klein-Graffel. Ineke took the helm with enthusiasm and that too is part of the company. “This also applies to my tours of the farm and Zutphen to show how closely farm life is connected to the town. Did you know that in the early 19th century all farmers had to leave 1 km from this town, so they could shoot without fire in case of war? History repeats Himself… For example, we take care of the nature reserves along the IJssel where our cows graze, who would do it if we stopped? As far as we are concerned, town and country form an integral whole and we spread this idea as much as possible.”

It works differently on circular mixed plantings

A nice side effect is mutual cooperation. Farming has always been fun, but where previously everyone had their own fixed tasks and rides, work has become more varied and more in tune with the seasons and, for example, the demand for meat. But they also do public relations, package logos, brochures, and communications with customers about preparations and orders together, just like the store that is open on Friday and Saturday. Renee: “Working out to pay for the machines is simply different than running Toco together, with stress-free cattle around you and a grateful consumer close to our hearts. It brings more fun than we already had.”

Within two years, Rene expects Klein Gravel to be profitable enough to be able to live fully. “But,” warns Ineke, “this is not a formula that you can adopt individually. And so we were able to turn our back on the production spiral and ‘return’ to circular agriculture 2.0. In that sense you could say we were ahead of the government. Happy.”

The succession is unknown, but interest has been fueled

The succession is not yet known. Their three adult daughters had never felt this way, even though their new course had intrigued them. Whatever they decide, their enthusiasm benefits the parents. Ineke sums it up: “This transition has not cost us any additional financial investment. In addition to farming, we have time for other things. We grow organically, but we don’t invest in expensive labels. We offer people to relax on the meadow and go shopping.” We sell excellent products. We keep the areas beautiful. And we’re now working almost in a circular motion. The animals are happy, the people are happy, we’re happy.”

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