In Europe, we produce more milk than we can consume and manage, and the surplus is too expensive for the rest of the world. Our production costs are too high. The dairy industry also belongs to the zombie economy. Still, over 55% of the annual billions of the European Union’s budget is spent on agriculture stimulation and price subsidy, keeping non-EU countries out of the European market.
It is not any different with Dutch pigs. After their horrible stay in those enormous high-rise pig farms, they are transported to Italy. According to the Commodity Board for Cattle and Meat we are talking about 300,000 pigs, and 140,000 metric tons of slaughtered pork, a year. The transport for this costs an arm and a leg (not to mention the environmental pressure). Once this meat arrives in Parma, Italy, it is given the “Parma ham” seal, and, as a result, this Dutch pork is suddenly worth much more as Italian prosciutto. It is worth more for the Italians, because The Netherlands does not benefit from it at all. We are literally left with shit: the manure surplus. We then use sophisticated high-tech machines to push it into the ground. We call that innovation.
Why do we not make a serious attempt to innovate in a sustainable way? Have you heard of the Rondeel egg from Barneveld? The Roundeel concept is a knowledge-operated co-creation of poultry farmers, policymakers at the Ministry of Agriculture, members of the farm feed and egg-processing industry, veterinarians, egg-traders, social organizations, and citizens. All stakeholders – including the chickens – and aspects, such as the environment, energy, and landscape have achieved a beautiful balance in this new concept of intensive poultry farming: a compact self-sustainable eco-system. The Roundeel needs a modest amount of space, and, in addition, is close to our residential area, which reduces the amount of required transport.
Our food chain is getting more transparent. Local suppliers are standing up and getting in direct contact with consumers. This development can be seen in Australia, in the USA, in France and in The Netherlands. The Dutch fruit trader Landwinkel Goense, a collective of 75 farmers, already offers over 125 local products. The public is welcome to pick cherries themselves. On the site www.mijnboerenkaas.nl, you can not only see where your farmhouse cheese originates from, but you can also learn more about the fifteen farmer families who share a passion for their product and trade, showing their real rural authenticity.
Speaking of producing close to home, in New York, a lot of experimentation is taking place with rooftop agriculture. This is being achieved with the aid of a German invention, Rooflite. Rooflite is an easy-to-lay bottom layer, on which anything can be cultivated. This local farming development is, these days, present in bigger cities. And initiatives like The Urban Farmer share their knowledge with Society30 citizens.