Fons, Leo and Jac Verbeek

Gebr. Verbeek, Netherlands

Hi, we are Fons, Leo en Jac Verbeek, and we grow organic tomatoes and other vegetables for Nature & More. Each of us has his own specialisation: Fons is the tomato man, Leo the cucumber champion, and Jac the pepper specialist! Thank you for buying our products, we hope you'll enjoy them!

Our business is located in the Maas Valley in the South East of The Netherlands, close to the border with Germany. It's a beautiful area with a varied  landscape including forests, moors, streams, swamps and rivers.

We started growing organic in 1997, after selling our conventional family glasshouse. We set up 3 state of the art greenhouses and each one of us started focussing on different organic crops: tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. The remainder of the land has been used to create a diverse surrounding for animals, birds and insects that are attracted to the flowers and plants in the fields and the pond. 

By alternating the use of the greenhouse (through changing crops) on an annual basis, we prevent plagues and pests and keep the soil healthy. It also gives the staff a new and fresh start every year. For energy, a sustainable heating system has been installed, with three residual heating installations. During daytime, energy is delivered to the local energy station. The warmth is stored and used to heat the glasshouses at night. This saves a lot of energy.

Today our business covers 56 acres, of which approx 26 is covered with greenhouses.

The marketing of our products takes place via Nautilus Organic.

 

Interview with Fons Verbeek

N&M: What did converting to organic mean for you?
Fons: Development and challenges! We gradually became aware of the importance of biodiversity and soil fertility for the quality of our product. After years of growing on rock wool, this was a real revelation. We were also confronted with the challenges, difficulties and limitations of growing organically.

N&M: Can you tell something about the insects and birds at your site?
Fons: The insects and birds help us with biological control in the greenhouse. We encourage small birds in the environment to control caterpillars in the greenhouse. Whenever I am in or outside the greenhouse I look out for insects. When I spot insects that are a direct threat to the crop I contact our experts and in collaboration with them we try to find a solution quickly, often including other insects or small animals. When I see insects that are beneficial I register them. Working with the insects has been really great. We offered our staff several courses and we can really see how insects and small animals are becoming integrated in our firm. Learning and understanding the topic is a lot of fun!

N&M: Greenhouse production is very intensive and energy consuming. What sustainable practices do you apply? 
Fons: We have built energy efficient greenhouses, officially recognized with the Dutch “groenkas-label”. The heating in the greenhouses is realised with residual heating units. The heat for the energy efficient greenhouses is basically a side-product from generating electricity for the local utility company. Another side-product of this process is carbon dioxide, which is not released into the atmosphere, but funnelled into the greenhouses where the plants utilize it in the production of oxygen.

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