22 - Agriculture and food supply: mechanisation and agriculture

The drainage, or inpoldering, of the Noordoostpolder led to the creation of new land that was mainly to be used as an agricultural and horticultural area. It became a polder with a modern and innovative agricultural industry. These businesses produced food and formed the basis for employment with themselves and with related industries.

Food supply

After the war, the rural areas were, wherever possible, used for the production of food. Contrary to today, the self-sufficiency rate (the production of food for the own population) of a hundred percent had not yet been reached. Thanks to its fertile soil and favourable lease regulations, the modern business culture, good infrastructure and the smoothly functioning triptych of Research, Information and Education, the Noordoostpolder generally became considered to be the ideal agricultural region

Mechanisation

In the beginning, most of the farm labour was still done by man and horse power.  

Harvesting oats, Noordoostpolder, 1952

Even oxen were used for some time during the war. The sector developed rapidly. This resulted in scale expansion, mechanisation and specialisation. Soon after the issuing of land, some businesses became too small (see also frames 11 and 23).


Film: Mowing contests of the Old Tractor and Motorcycle Association on Schokland, on 12-06-2010.

Development new crops

During the 1970s and 1980s a different and radical development took place in the Noordoostpolder with regard to agriculture and horticulture: product or crop segregation.

The local authorities cancelled the graslandverplichting (lit: pasture requirement - the mandatory amount of grassland farmer tenants had to keep because of the positive effect on the soil quality).

For many farmers this became an incentive to switch completely to arable farming.

Sometimes because the farmer had never been a true cattle farmer, sometimes because of the appeal of the higher returns of flower bulbs in particular.

Flower bulb fields near Creil.

The flower bulb production has seen a strong development in the Noordoostpolder.

The quality of the soil and the relatively mild climate along the IJsselmeer are particularly suitable for the growing of, mainly, tulips, lilies and gladioli. Every spring the huge amount of tulip fields display their blaze of colours. During that period, many people from all over the country flock to the Noordoostpolder to visit the Tulip festival. During this event they follow the 'flower bulb trail' Bloembollenroute.

Film: The flower bulb trail, 26 April 2009.

During the 1960s several arable farmers started to grow fruit. This type of crop has now largely disappeared, partly because relatively cheap fruit is imported from all over the world. The greenhouse cultivation sector has developed steadily and it centres around Ens, Marknesse and Luttelgeest. Modern-day greenhouse cultivation areas are modern, large-scale and capital intensive businesses. These companies are also increasingly innovating and become energy producing businesses (for instance through cogeneration installations) are able to return the 'energy surplus' to the energy companies against market price.

Greenhouses with pipes from a ditch. Front left: cauliflower, partly harvested. In the background the Drietorensweg, 1959

The picked tomato goes into cart.'


The open-field vegetables sector initially started on specific farms around Ens, Marknesse and Luttelgeest. Over the years, this crop production has expanded significantly and moved to arable farming businesses. The original amount of cereal crops, beets and potatoes has partly been replaced by more onion fields, chicory and carrots.

Emmeloord has to become the potato capital of the world.

Boxes in the main hall of 't Voorhuys theatre during the auction day, 1954.

The pillar under many arable farming businesses is the growing of propagating material, which is exported to countries around the world.

The cultivation and propagation of new varieties forms the basis.

Potato trading companies located in the polder have used their own and freely tradable varieties to build up a worldwide trading network.

Emmeloord is therefore also called World Potato City.

Opening Potato season 1991. Potato farmers meticulously test ten different potato varieties, such as bintjes, berbers, priors, and bildstars.

Cattle farming

Dairy farms and mixed farming businesses were established on the land with a lesser soil quality, mostly around the borders of the polder. By the end of the 1970s, after the abandonment of the grassland obligation, many mixed farms switched to just arable farming. Over the last decade some large-scale dairy farms, bought out in other areas due to urban expansion, have established in the polder. This also includes a number of pig farms.

Broadening of activities

Many agricultural businesses have broadened their activities towards windmills, recreation and tourism, the care sector and education. This gives the rural areas of the Noordoostpolder a more diverse character and a much more varied appearance. 

Expansion windmill park at the Westermeerdijk near Espel, 1991.

Organisations

The first (prospective) tenant farmers felt the need to organise themselves. On 5 August 1945 three agricultural organisations were formed in different locations. The 'Aartsdiocesane R.K. Boeren- en Tuinders Bond, ABTB' (Catholic Agricultural and Horticultural Association), the 'Christelijke Boeren- en Tuindersbond, CBTB' (Christian Agricultural and Horticultural Association), and the 'Overijsselse Landbouwmaatschappij, OLM' (Overijssel Agricultural Society), later becoming the 'Landbouwmaatschappij IJsselmeerpolders, LMIJ' (Agricultural Society IJsselmeerpolders). They served the interests of the farmers and market gardeners in the Noordoostpolder in many private and public domains. In 1995 the three organisations merged into the 'Fries-Flevolandse Land- en Tuinbouworganisatie, FLTO' (Frisian-Flevoland Agriculture and Horticulture Organisation). We now know the LTO-Noord as being the interest promoting agriculture and horticulture organisation.

In the wake of the farmers, a large range of facilitating companies and institutions came to the Noordoostpolder as well. Examples are the accounting and consultancy firm such as Countus, purchase and trading associations, insurance companies, banks, schools and the 'Vereniging voor Bedrijfsvoorlichting' (Association for Company Information). Many of these companies have become part of larger, and often also outside the polder operating, companies and institutions. Some of them have their headquarters in the Noordoostpolder, such as De Nederlandse Aardappelkeuringsdienst (NAK) and the cooperative potato trading company Agrico.

Trade

An important part of the trading activities used to take place on each Thursday in Emmeloord at trading market, the fair. For years, farmers and traders would meet here for the purchase and selling of crops such as cereals, straw, potatoes and onions. The importance of the trading market as a trading and meeting place diminished over the years. However, the importance of the market in relation to the pricing of many products is still significant, and is even today, for buyers and sellers, a starting point for the negotiations about a fair price for agricultural produce.

The harvesting of wheat on a field along the Zuidwesterringweg in the Noordoostpolders, 2011.

Large-scale cultivation and processing of agricultural products has never found sufficient ground in the Noordoostpolder. Milk and sugar beet factories, for instance, have never been established here, as the economical basis has always been too small. This resulted in the transport of many products to processing facilities outside the polder.

Future

The modern day agricultural and horticultural sector faces new challenges, where sustainability and innovation are important issues. The Noordoostpolder is still one of the main agricultural regions, with a leading role in many new developments.

Precision farming with computers and GPS now dominates the operational activities.

This is especially important for the continuously growing agricultural contracting companies. The prospects for the farming industry are relatively favourable, especially because of the growing world population and the increasing demand for food in large upcoming economies such as China and India. Also in the future, the agricultural and horticultural sector will play an important part in the economic development of the Noordoostpolder.