This month, the first certified kale and red beets will arrive in Brabant. The Hak red cabbage (in October 2019, ed.) And Hak spinach (May 2020) were previously awarded the sustainability certificate ‘On the way to PlanetProof.’
Just like with red cabbage and spinach, Hak again compensates for the extra costs for the growers. Hak pays 7% and 14% more for On the way to PlanetProof beetroot and kale, respectively. In addition to this reward for sustainable certified cultivation, the collaboration with the contracted growers is also increasingly focusing on the challenge of how they can naturally make red beet and kale varieties even more resistant to pests, drought and, for example, excess rainfall. These are challenges that mainly play a role in sustainable cultivation, where artificial means can no longer be used as a matter of course.
Grower Pieter Verschure (photo above) from Aarle Rixtel, who himself already had a lot of experience with sustainable cultivation, but then in floriculture, explains those challenges: ‘Apart from the additional costs, the transition to the On the way to PlanetProof scheme was for us. no longer a major hurdle for beetroot and kale. For example, we have been working for years to find out how we can best provide the soil with natural fertilizer. We obtain garden compost from the surrounding area and since this year we have been getting grass from their impoverished areas from Staatsbosbeheer. They mow the grass and remove it to impoverish their soil and develop nature. It’s a win-win situation. They develop extra nature and we enrich our cultivation soil with it. We also take leaf samples instead of soil samples, which gives us a better idea of what nutrients the leafy vegetables need. Everything is aimed at the vitality of our crop. ‘
Pieter Verschure is a member of the De Schakel cooperative, whose members are well acquainted with raw materials that they already grow under the On the way to PlanetProof quality mark. For him, the drought this summer did not have a major negative effect on the growth of red beets and kale. He gives some insight into his P for ‘Product’: ‘The trick is that you water when the vegetables need it, but not too much. The plant should not become lazy and should slowly develop a good root system itself. If you give too much, the crop will experience growing pains during drought, resulting in a disappointing harvest. This is also part of making the beetroot tuber or the kale root system more resilient. It goes without saying that that does require a lot of attention. ‘
Adri den Dekker, Director of Purchasing, Agriculture & Sustainability at Hak is pleased that we can work with the growers in all openness. ‘In addition to improving resilience, we also talk about new mechanical techniques. For example, to weed weeds that grow between the crops, so that crop protection agents can be avoided. We also discuss which varieties are most suitable for cultivation in our climate that is subject to change and which natural enemies we can use during cultivation. Think of ladybugs that love to eat aphids. ‘
Public should be more involved in local cultivation
The Hak growers involved would like to see greater awareness of locally grown vegetables and On The way to PlanetProof. A view that fits seamlessly with the Green Normal that Hak advocated in June 2020 and actually stands for “eat more locally, eat more plant-based and reward growers for their efforts if they grow sustainably. ‘We as growers benefit from a public that is less distant from us. Ultimately, they have to buy our products. A lot is possible in the Netherlands, only people have no idea where their vegetables come from. And that makes them ignorant of what they are eating, how it is produced and how healthy it is or is not. We still have a long way to go in that regard. We can grow much more in the Netherlands than we think. A large part of the vegetables that come from far away can be grown here, ‘says grower Verschure.
The On the way to PlanetProof certified kale in a glass Hak jar is already in the store. The first On the way to PlanetProof beetroot will be available from mid-November 2020.