Herman Leijten

Mts. Leijten

My name is Herman Leijten. I grow organic chicory, and apart from that I am also an arable farmer.

 I was born and raised on this beautiful farm here in Tollebeek and have lived here all my life. In 1977 at the age of nineteen, I started helping my father with the various farming activities on the 12 hectares of land we had at that time.  In 1994 we expanded our farm with a further 12 hectares and continued to focus on potatoes, chicory roots and beets.  In 2009, together with my son Jan we decided to switch to organic agriculture. For us it was a logical choice not only because of the growing market for organic products but also because our farm was too small to compete with the large conventional neighbour farms.   

Working organically means taking care of the soil and that is why we work with a crop rotation system (1 on 6). We start with grass clover and then sow seed onions followed by the chicory rootstock. Consequently we sow parsnip, pumpkins, peas and finish off with potatoes.  The rotation system ensures that the soil gets enough variety and rest which is extremely important.  I am delighted that I am now an organic farmer .. it is not only much more fun but also very interesting to look at your farm in a completely different way.

The marketing of my products takes place via Nautilus Organic

N&M: What makes your business so special? 

As far as I know, we are the only organic chicory grower in Holland that also grows our own chicory roots.  The roots are part of our 1 in 6 rotation system.  Apart from growing chicory we also grow a wide variety of other open field crops.

 

N&M: What has been changed since you are an organic farmer?

Practically speaking, I am working much more together with nature instead of monitoring nature by spraying and with nitrogen. I am trying to create the ideal conditions in the soil with compost and our rotation system ... thereafter the plants should do it  themselves! Previously used to spray almost every week and now I do not spray anymore of course, while in terms of yield hardly anything has been changed. Food for thought...

N&M: What has switching to organic meant for you personally

It is great to focus on something new .. organic agriculture is very very interesting and you forced to look at your business in a whole new way.  Before I farmed as an automatic pilot now I have to think and gives me so much more satisfaction.

N&M: On your property I also see beautiful  hydrangeas, can you tell me a little more about why you grow these.

My wife grows these beautiful flowers on a piece of land that is difficult to access with a tractor.  Although it looks very pretty now, you should visit us in august when this field is bursting with colour

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