Louis Ruissen

Louis Ruissen

Hi, my name is Louis Ruissen and I am an organic and biodynamic fruit grower in the “Betuwe”  region here in The Netherlands.  The “ Betuwe”  region is located in the centre of the country between the large rivers “De Waal”  and the Rhine. Due to the rich, porous  riverbed clay and climate, this area is ideal for growing apples, pears and other fruits.  My main focus is apples which I have been growing organically since 1998.

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.

 

Interview with Louis Ruissen

N&M: What does it take to become a bio dynamic fruit grower?
You need to have a good connection with the land and the trees and you need to have a good dosis of perseverance. You have to understand what the trees need and that they are not “units of production”.  When I understood the damage that agro-chemicals cause to people, the soil, the water and the fish, it was clear to me that organic farming was the only way forward.

N&M: What is the strength of your business?
Fruit trees are very sensitive to moisture, moulds and certain insects. I have 23 hectares of a broad variety of different varieties that I have planted in such a manner so that the problems are kept to a minimum. The fruit looks beautiful which is not always easy as an organic grower.  Another strength is that I grow new, special and different varieties that customers prefer nowadays.  That means that you need to be able to anticipate for the future because an apple tree does not grow overnight.


N&M: How do you see the cooperation with Nature & More?
It is still early days so I am curious. What I like is that Nature & More allows consumers to visit my farm through the internet.  Although I only use my mobile phone to make a call, I understand that a whole new generation can, using their mobile device, learn more about my farm when they are in the store ! Pretty amazing.    I also hope that the supermarket and wholesale buyers will also enter my code because it is important that they are well informed about the values of biodynamic agriculture and what the Demeter logo stands for.

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