My parents were also fruit growers and had a thriving business in Zeeland. However, following the 1953 flooding disaster when they lost everything, they moved to the Noord Oost Polder, an area that ironically, a few decades earlier was part of the sea. There the new land was more suitable for arable farming so that is where I grew up and took over the business in 1982. Following some adventures in the U.K. and a study at the fruit growers college, I started my own fruit business here in Varik.
To grow organic fruit you need sunlight, water, space and as mentioned good soil. Drainage is so important because long term moisture has a negative effect on the trees. Therefore, although I do have large hedgerows around my orchards, I trim the lowest branches so the wind can get through and help keep things a little drier. That helps lower the risk of diseases which is necessary when you are not able to use chemicals (as conventional growers do). Furthermore the hedgerows are a great environment for birds and insects that help me to grow delicious healthy organic apples!
In the nineties I started thinking more about why I was using dangerous chemicals. Leaning over a barrel of pesticides, I decided this was no longer the future for me particularly since I had just become the father of a wonderful son. At that time the choice for organic was not easy and furthermore my trees were suffering from spint (small spiders that a devastating effect on the leaves of the trees). I visited a grower who was working with natural predators to combat the same problem and although it was a time consuming task it was very effective and the spiders disappeared.
From that experience I learned that you should not see trees as objects or as “productivity machines” , but as part of the natural process. Everything is part of this process and as you become more and more experienced it makes so much sense. Helped by a government subsidy, in 1998 I officially became an organic grower.