18 – The selection of future inhabitants: the Issuance plan and the Ter Veen model

In the Haarlemmermeer the settlement period had been left to the free play of the forces of society. The doctoral study by H.N. ter Veen (see also window 12) had a clear message: the state had to be in control in the new Noordoostpolder. This advice was adopted by the government. There was a strong belief in a makeable society. The Board structured the Noordoostpolder on the basis of the the ‘(1) Verkavelingsplan’ (allotment plan) ‘(2) Dorpenplan’ (villages plan), the ‘(3) Landschapsplan’ (landscape plan) (The general planting plan of June 1947) and the ‘(4) Uitgifteplan’ (issuance plan). In hindsight, it can be concluded that the four plans mentioned were guiding in the structuring of the Noordoostpolder. In addition, a unique selection process was adopted. This window highlights the selection process in particular.

Polder interest before other interests

In its plans, the Board put the interests of the polder first, before other interests. Its aim was to ‘look for men and women who together are able to turn the new polder into a prosperous area with a rich variety of cultures’. Henri Nicolaas ter Veen will be forever linked to the settlement of the Noordoostpolder. In his thesis he stated that the problems that occurred in the Haarlemmermeer could be prevented in the new polders. The Vissering Commission that formulated the guidelines for settlement and of which Ter Veen was a member, drew mainly from his thesis. Elements from it were: 

Prof. dr. Henri Nicolaas ter Veen.
Prof. dr. Henri Nicolaas ter Veen.

  1. Careful selection of the inhabitants: the government had to coordinate this settlement;
  2. A proportional distribution of the various religious denominations and a reflection of Dutch society;
  3. A sufficient number of small firms with a sound financial basis;
  4. Individual settlement over group settlement.

The Issuance plan

After much discussion it was decided in 1953 that 1577 firms would be issued, including 93 state firms. This brings the total on 1484 firms to be issued to private persons. The annual issuance lasted until 1958.


- 953 agricultural firms 60 %
- 624 mixed firms 40%

By size

- 513 firms: 12 and 18 ha  32 %
- 737 firms: 24 and 30 ha   47 % 
- 327 firms: 36 ha and more  21 %

Considerations that played a role in the realisation of the general Issuance plan:

  • Agricultural considerations: which soil type is best suited for running the various types of businesses.
  • Economic considerations: interests of lessees and state interests were taken into account.
  • Social considerations: a harmonious distribution of the various sizes of firms was sought to achieve a diverse social structure of the population.

General considerations: the residence and the number of field workers.

Noordoostpolder, May 1946.
Noordoostpolder, May 1946.

The selection process

People who wanted to rent a farm had to apply and then received notice to come to one of the viewing days. The documents issued on the viewing days had to be filled in meticulously. Information was collected on the candidates. Then the files were read.

  • Skills.
  • Financial capacity (creditworthiness).
  • Religious denomination (a good distribution of denominations).
  • Being able to live as a settler, both men and women (robustness, health).
  • Screening by the local authorities (people who had been on the wrong side in the war did not qualify).

Rejection for lessee. Mr de Vries was informed that he had insufficient experience. He was advised to gain at least another year of experience with a good farmer in the Noordoostpolder or elsewhere. He is given the opportunity to apply to a mixed farm later, with a size of 27 to 33 hectares.Rejection for lessee. Mr de Vries was informed that he had insufficient experience. He was advised to gain at least another year of experience with a good farmer in the Noordoostpolder or elsewhere. He is given the opportunity to apply to a mixed farm later, with a size of 27 to 33 hectares.

Both men and women had to be prepared to genuinely contribute to the formation of the community. The ‘applicants’ were visited by ‘selectors’. Reports were made of these visits. Many found the heavy application process a tense experience and sometimes humiliating, when officials showed their power.

Each year, just before Christmas, they had to wait for the envelope with the reaction: do I have a farm or not? Besides the people who were found suitable for renting a farm, many were rejected. Many left the polder heavily frustrated. Some even emigrated.

Suited for a farm of 12 to 18 ha



Suited for a farm of 24 to 30 ha



Suited for a farm of 36 ha and larger



Still too little practical experience



Did not meet the requirements



Who received a farm?

The 1484 firms were eventually distributed among the candidates as follows:




Polder workers



Walcheren farmers



Persons from disaster areas



Other remediation cases



Victims of works of public interest



Victims of lease termination



Free lease



Special firms



Most firms were issued to the polder pioneers (about 27 percent). Pioneers were considered those who had been employed by the Board in the Noordoostpolder for at least two years by 1 August 1945.

Polder workers; digging ditches by hand. 1941.Polder workers; digging ditches by hand. 1941.

About 18 percent of the firms went to polder workers: men who had also worked in the polder during the period of exploitation, but did not fully meet the requirements made to pioneers. Then there were the free lessees with additional social abilities (about 16 percent) and Zeeland lessees (about 15 percent). Farmers who had been forced to move due to land reparcelling got 7 percent of the farms in the Noordoostpolder.

peasant woman Visser uit Sonburg, in the Noordoostpolder, with horses; September 1949.
peasant woman Visser uit Sonburg, in the Noordoostpolder, with horses; September 1949.

Walcheren farmer in Marknesse, 1949Walcheren farmer in Marknesse, 1949.

The selection of the field workers

Field workers had to meet high demands as well. They had to have good dexterity, technical knowledge and good personal qualities. The mistress had to be orderly and tidy and live in the house accordingly. Husband and wife had to deal with the income and expenditure wisely and be ‘modestly and properly dressed’. he choice of the first worker on a farm also entailed that he had to have a mentality fitting a farmer and was obliged to live in the official residence, in appropriate proximity to the farm.

The selection of the retailers

The settlement of retailers was strictly monitored. Apart from skills and financial robustness, the Board also introduced the principle of the need principle. A retailer could only settle in the Noordoostpolder if there was a need for such a business. The need principle was not laid down in any law. It was the Board itself that decided if there was a need. SME policy was aimed at ‘fitting care’ for the people who had settled.

S. Smeding MSc, managing director of the Board, valued the selection of the lessees and other inhabitants of the new polder highly. One of the things he said about this was: ‘Creating facilitated groups is no guarantee of lessees’ ability to meet standards’ and ‘Skills have priority, as has the ability to build a community by the lessees and their wives’.

Later, social organizations also started to exert their influence. In the 1950s much criticism was heard from the Catholic side, for instance. Church leaders and politicians felt that too few farms were assigned to Catholics. Finally, this was debated in parliament.

So each group was fighting for its own grassroots. For sharp observers and analysts the consequences are still clearly visible in the Noordoostpolder in 2019.

Rook and Son, for balanced food.Rook and Son, for balanced food.