Farming Communities - Herenboeren NL

We establish cooperative farms wich work according to the principles of nature driven, socially conected and economically supported.

Photo of Geert van der Veer
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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Geert van der Veer

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • Netherlands

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?

See our map at our site We have over 30 projects for Herenboeren-farms in the Netherlands in different stages. 5 of them our operational.

Website or social media url(s)

Date Started


Project Stage

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €500k - €1m

Organization Type

  • Nonprofit/NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

please check my story at Between the ages of 12 and 25 I worked at a tree nursery. After my high school I wanted to study biology at the university. Because I prefer to work in practice, I eventually studied agriculture at the university for applied agri science . I kept on my biologists' glasses and therefore asked why food production has become completely separate from biology, ecology and landscape. During my work at the agricultural and horticultural organization, I discovered that the sector is technically bankrupt. When I also heard of suicides among farmers, the I definitely want to do something to make the world more beautiful, more biodiverse ,social more future-proof.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

please check my story at Today, the tensions in the sector are high around the nitrogen crises. Steer sector and government on measures and thereby forget to think integrally. Solving nitrogen in this way means deteriorating biodiversity, soil and landscape. in the Netherlands thousands of farmers took to the streets (highway) early this year to demonstrate. Herenboeren-farms solve: biodiversity, soil and landscape restoration, etc

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Herenboeren NL supports groups of people who also want a Herenboerderij (farm). A Herenboerderij is owned by 200 households who hire a farmer. The production is geared to what nature teaches us (beyond organic!). The farm is mixed and supplies around 60% of the needs of the members: fruit, vegetables, pork, beef and chicken, eggs, honey etc. Selling to the market is out of the question. The members share the costs of the farm on an annual basis in the form of a contribution to the cooperative. The Heremboerderij is a working model of our theory of change. see Besides the farm we also invest in new knowledge. Given the damage that nature has sustained in recent decades, we have no time to lose and theorising on its own won’t take us very far. But you only know if something will work when you actually do it, so we place a strong emphasis on action and action research. As at the end of 2018, Herenboeren Nederland is already active in the following knowledge coalitions: WINK Farming Communities development and expertise programme Green Deal Natuurinclusief Grondgebruik Herenboeren We are setting up the Herenboeren knowledge centre now

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

Geert’s model empowers people to take initiative and join hands to set up a network of collaborative farms in the Netherlands, changing farming, nature conservation and food consumption habits by fostering the power of local communities as well as re-involving them in the production of food in their direct surroundings. The real innovation of Geerts’ Herenboeren movement lies in its power to mobilize and influence the several critically important segments of society involved in the production as well as consumption of food. By being closer to their own food production people realize their position in the current and unsustainable food production system, and as such will understand that we have been industrializing and depleting our soils.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

With the Farming Communities taking the lead, neglected relationships between nature, business and society are being dusted off and restored. This is generating a wave of new connections, crossovers and socio-economic experiments in which food, nature, energy, education, research and entrepreneurship come together. We can hardly begin to estimate the potential and impact. In the densely urbanised Netherlands, our countryside is energetic and bursting with interaction, variety and biodiversity. And above all, it delivers plenty of things that are of value to everyone in different ways. And it is an inclusive system, because everyone can participate from day one – just like they can in Herenboeren. New relationships emerge, based on restored values and new contacts, giving rise to innovative, economically valuable developments. Everyone can choose today to do things differently tomorrow: Individuals and families, scientist, government etc

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

Since the farm in Boxtel started in 2015, we met a lot of enthousiasm form all over the Netherlands. Also from other parts of the world (see document). 10 k families are joining our concept, 31 farms are being developed, 20 farmers are being trained by our organisation to run the mixed farm and learn how to work with nature in stead of against it. 3 universities are steady partners aswel as 2 schools for apllied science. Including our Technical University in Eindhoven: agro-robotics and data-collection is also suitable for nature inclusive farming. We astablished a soil-fund wich buys land out of the speculative market and gives land in the hand of our members. We astablished a Foundation "Friends of Herenboeren" wich makes it fiscaly-friendly to invest in our movement. With about 30-50 students each year we messure soil improvement, biodiversity increase and landscape restoration. Since the beginning of 2019 Geert is part of the guidance group of our minister of LNV

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

We are already in the middel of our growth programm and now taking next steps towards a mother-cooperation. All farms become a menber of this coop. so every individual member had influence on the national policy of our organisation. For a country like the Netherlands we see room and space for 35.000 ne farms. This wil stop the decrease in amout of farms (7 famers quit per day in the Netherlands). We gave Except (a advisory company) an asignment to studie on the question which country to start our international roll-out.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

We dare to say that we are: working on soil improvement working on the increase of biodiversity working on the restoration of landscape working on the re-commening of land working on the restoration of people's connection with their food working on the restoration of people's connection with nature working on the restoration of peolple's bond with eachother (taking people out of isolation)

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Every farm pays a kick-back to our national foundation of 75 k after opening the farm. Each year per farm is payed an annual contribution between 15 k and 20 k euro. Including all development-costs we plan to be self-supportive when 20 farm are up and running. we expect that goal to reach in 2023. Meanwhile we do fundraising to cover our operational-costs. we are blended finaced: party subsidies, partly loans and partly charity-investments

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

We have a Supervisory Board of 5 very knowledgeable people We have a board of 4 people, 2 of them, including Geert form the direction we have 2 stafmembers: officemanagement and marketing-communications We have 6 people in the operational team and another 6 in the shall ourond the core team Total there are about 8 full equivalents every one of is is working as a freelancer and hired bij our foundation. This makes growing easy and flexible every local farm has a board of circa 6 people

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Ashoka page or contact

12. Connection to Biodiversity: How does your project directly contributes to preserving and/or restoring biodiversity? Please share data to support your answer.

First: to be part of the Herenboeren-movement all farms sign for the dot on the horizon: no inputs. That means a fully closed loop system: nutrients, energy, water, proteins, etc. Our principles regen farming, permaculture, agro-ecology. Not knowing how to do this technically yet, the dot is a compass for daily decisions. In the end our farms turn out to become ecosystems which provide us with food. Working towards that goal we have: - turned about 100 ha in organic soil (7 farms) - 2 farms are established on property our nature conservation organisation - On the first farm in Boxtel (example farm) we planted: 2019 1126 trees and shrubs; 2020 already another 200 trees and shrubs; 2020-2021 another 1000 edible trees; instead of shooting the fox we introduced geese amoug chickens; 3000 m2 farmland turned into food forest; attachments - databestand monitoring Herenboeren.xlsx - 23.06.16 Definitief eindverslag nul-inventarisatie.xlsx - Het wink monitoring model uitgebreid.xlsx

13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples that show how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.

We trust the community to be the changemaking group per farm. They all agreed on 7 points: 1. Every farm is a cooperative so the central gathering is the decision making unit 2. All labor needed on the farm is covered by the annual budget per farm --> no dependency on volunteers, while stimulating volunteers to work at the farm 3. Food productions is based on the needs of the local members; this is the guarantee to avoid mono-culture farms 4. No sales to open markets, just production for the members; This is the guarantee to avoid money as perverse goal. Only quality and values matter 5. Finance only comes from entree fee and annual contribution; This is the guarantee to avoid the influence of banks, or Brussels subsidies (90% of the farmers depend on) 6. Nature driven production (organic is lowest level); the goal "no inputs" as dot on the horizon. Reduction of energy, water, etc 7. active participation in the Herenboeren-network; sharing knowledge and experience actively

14. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches? In our concept there is no consumer or market with demand and offer. The farm produces what the members need. Our members are the entrepreneur, not the farmer himself. Our concept also integrates nature inclusive farming (beyond organic). Our concept also tries to close the nutrient-loop. But this initiative is technically further than we are. in our concept it is only one of many aspects we look to. Our farms turn out to become ecosystems providing its members with food. We strongly believe that the impact is bigger when we start with thousands of people than just with a few farmers. In the Netherlands Herenboeren is one of the founders of this group of 100+ existing farmers is also working on the "no inputs"-goal. This is our way to inspire farmers and get inspired by them.

15. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

-HAS Aword - a aword from the university of apllied agriculture science in the city of 's-Hertogenbosch for most innovative and promissing concept -The AgriFood-pluim - a recognission by de board of the provincie of Noord-Brabant for innovation -One of five winners of the "VPRO Verkiezing Platteland Pioniers" (VPRO election of Rural Pioneers) -National Food 100 election in 2018 and 2019 (top 3) -10th position in the Trouw Sustainabel 100

16. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

Our businessmodel: We support local communities to establish their own farm. Together with all the farms up-and-running, we develop programs to support them collectively or individually. Every member of a local farm pays an entrance fee of 2000 euro. 375 euro of this fee, is going to the central organisation. Per farm that is 75 k euro, seen as an entrance fee for farms to the movement on the national level and to cover the support costs. Every member on the local level pays 100 euro per year for the annual costs of the central organisation. When we have 20 farms up and running we reach break-even. We aspect to be there in 2022/2023. Until than: - 2020 foundation of NGO grants 60% (601.000 euro) earned income 40% (423.000 euro) - 2021 foundation of NGO grants 40% (485.000 euro) earned income 60% (680.625 euro) - besides these income we have soft-loans: - 130 k , 6 years, 3% (wealthy family) - 36 k , 2 years, 3% (initiative taker) - 125 k only pay back if possible 0% (DOEN)

17. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge? How would you invest the prize money to leverage your work?

We are working on this concept of the Herenboeren-Knowledge-and-experience-centre. Aswell digital, as a spot in real life. We want to expand the Herenboeren Academy where we gather existing knowledge, do research for new knowledge and develop content-programms for aswell farmers as communities. One of our subprogramms is being developed together with our Tech University in Eindhoven. We want to organise the Robocup at the Farm competition. A worldwide challenge for the best new robots and drones solutions to decrease the use of heavy machines and tractors and the use of fossil fuels. We strongly believe in the tech-sector as one of our partners for regenerative food production so a scale up to the level of worldwide sustainable production will become realistic. We already have a projectteam and a Programm of Demands (PoD). One critical theme is that all data gathered by a single farm, will be owned by that single farm. The governance is a big issue that needs a thoroughly process
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Attachments (5)

Het WINK monitoring model uitgebreid.xlsx

This monitoring scheme was developed together with our Wageningen University and is going te be used on all our farms.

23.06.2016 Definitief eindverslag nul-inventarisatie.pdf

This report is the start of all the measurements

Databestand Monitoring Herenboeren.xlsx

This file gives an illustration of what is being monitored at the first farm in Boxtel.

In de media.docx

We are in the media all over the world!

Manifest Farming Communities_EN.pdf

This document discribes our theory of change

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Stephanie H. Ambar

Geert van der Veer wonderful project! Really unique and innovative approach to sustainable food systems and communities, will definitely use it as a reference for inspiration and local models here at home.
If you move forward to the next stage of the challenge, please share some of the data on soil improvement, biodiversity increase and landscape restoration that you mention that 30-50 students collect every year, this will make your pitch much stronger for this particular challenge.
Wish you all the best with your future work.