Herenboeren farms (Gentry Farmers) are a revolutionary model for community owned and managed sustainable farms, developed in the Netherlands. The farms close resource loops and use circularity and agroforestry principles to establish long term, community owned and operated, sustainable farms. This project aims to scale up the Herenboeren farms from its eight existing farms to 80 in various European countries, and through this provide a massive boost to agroforestry practices in Europe. Except is working with Herenboeren to engage this internationalization program.

Herenboeren farms make extensive use of trees for production, wind blocks, and ecosystem services, as well as landscape restoration. Eight Herenboeren farms have been successfully established in the Netherlands. Herenboeren International is a new project to introduce the concept and establish 80 new farms in other countries in the EU, share the blueprints, and help grow the sustainable farming community and the restoration of the agricultural ecosystems on the continent. At the end of the project 40.000 EU-citizens (80 farms x 500 consumers) are Herenboeren-ambassadors that disseminate the advantages of Community Farming in their own network.

The Herenboeren team has made a toolkit that allows quick and streamlined implementation of new Herenboeren farms. This toolkit has been developed for and in the Dutch market, and allows rapid expansion of the concept. At the moment a total of about 400 hectares of land, feeding about 4.000 households, is an established farm, or in the process of becoming one.

Herenboeren has received overwhelming positive results and responses since its first farm started in 2016. Increasing interest from parties to establish a Herenboeren farm from around the world has led the Herenboeren foundation to seek ways to support international expansion of the concept. This action plan focuses on implementing this international expansion in a healthy business model, adapting the model to international contexts, and safeguarding the integrity of the model while doing so. This includes the selection of new farms, recovery of the ecosystem, planting of long term trees and windbreaks, and the trees for agroforestry based production.

One Herenboeren-farm converts 20 hectares of normal pasture land into fertile, sustainable and organic land. Each farm plants around 3100 trees. We estimate that the farms have a net fixation of 4.5 - 5.3 tons of CO2eq / ha / year. 80 Herenboeren-farms will lead to a total of 1600 hectares improvement land/soil and a total net fixation of 42.400 tons CO2eq, and near to a quarter million trees planted.

A traditional farm uses 5.5 kg/hectare of pesticides and herbicides. A Herenboeren-farm uses only organic material and therefore the reduction of used pesticides and herbicides is 100%. 80 Herenboeren-farms will avoid the use of 44.000 kg pesticides and herbicides.

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Farming is the number one user of water and land, and the primary source of ecosystem degradation on the planet. While population globally is rising, combined with ever increasingly wasteful production methods, our mission is to radically change the supply chain of much needed food, using a new form of community-based sustainable agriculture.

The use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers in agriculture contributes to pollution of soil, water and air. In 2017, nitrogen emissions from agriculture accounted for 43% of agriculture emissions in the EU. The expected demand for food will increase by 70% by 2050, whilst 60% of the world’s major ecosystems that help produce these resources have already been degraded or are used unsustainably.

At the same time, farms continue to increase and industrialize, which is part of the problem dynamic. Between 2000 and 2019, the number of farmers in the Netherlands decreased by almost half. The number of farms in the EU decreased by one quarter between 2005 and 2016 and on average 300 farms stop every day due to lack of a viable income perspective. While sustainable farming models exist, preserving land for agro-ecological farmers is a major struggle throughout Europe.The most common barrier identified for new entrants into farming is access to land. From 1993 to 2013, the EU lost 12% of its agricultural area. Furthermore, remaining farms become larger and larger while competing at low profit margin in an EU wide market with complex supply chains. This results in megafarms forced to produce at as low costs as possible, which results in predatorial farming methods.

In order to meet a circular, green and resource-efficient Europe we need alternative forms of food production. Forms that can meet the increasing organic demand for sustainably produced food, help recover and strengthen local ecosystems, are more resilient and that also offer stability and prospects for EU farmers.

Agroforestry is a proven, 50 year old approach to sustainable farming. Agroforestry uses diverse trees for a variety of purposes, including food production, wind breaks, soil remediation, biodiversity, water, energy and air management. Herenboeren applies these principles in a context-driven environment. Each farm is attuned to its local ecosystem and helps to restore, strengthen, and protect it. Each farm is planted with around 3100 trees, in a variety of species.

Community Farming is a community-based way of farming that enables a more circular, green and resource-efficient way of doing agriculture that integrates social dimension in its value chain. It tackles the vulnerabilities of our current agriculture system and it meets growing consumer needs. It means more local partnerships of mutual commitment between a farm and a community that provide a direct link between the production and consumption of food.

Herenboeren is currently the biggest Community Farming organization and offers a blueprint for Community Farming with a high level of scalability and replicability on an international level. Herenboeren-farms are based on the idea of a nature-driven food production, with short value chains, circular agriculture, improved soil-quality and value of land and increased biodiversity. Herenboeren integrates sustainable soil management practices used to produce food in a sustainable way transcending generations. It offers a space for education and research and raises consumer awareness about the possibilities of community supported agriculture.

Our ambition is to further adapt and replicate this model and also make it widely available within the EU, and thus provide a large impetus for the 1 Trillion trees challenge on this continent in the agriculture sector.

Herenboeren Submission.jpg

Measure of Success

A successfully started and fully operational Herenboeren-farm will be self-sufficient, self-reliant and financially sustainable. It has a stable and predictable contribution payment from its members and a guaranteed availability of a Herenboeren-farmer per community. Also, the continuous improvement of circular agricultural methods fostered by the knowledge center and test-farm makes a Herenboeren-farm future-proof. The broad support base from a Herenboeren-community establishes a strong social foundation on which a Herenboeren-farm can last for decades.

  • By setting up Herenboeren-farm via established national sister-organizations the further national implementation of Herenboeren-farms after the project is secured.
  • The land required for Herenboeren-farm will be obtained by our Aardpeer Land Trust or associated trusts connected to Access to Land. This fund only accepts lifelong investments to permanently remove the land from the speculative market environment. This is an extra safeguard to guarantee the continuity of the Herenboeren farms, as well as the agro-forests.
  • During the project we will build an (legal) international collaboration structure with our sister organizations and their public-private ecosystem of experts. This will stimulate and accelerate the further upscaling of Herenboeren-farms after the project. The collaboration structure to be set up within the project with the partners mentioned is an important precondition.
  • The knowledge center and a test farm will be supported and used by a broad variety of different partners with a shared responsibility that ensures continuation after the project.
  • Herenboeren will continue to set up new experiments that contribute to necessary changes in environmental policy and legislation (e.g. in the field of efficient soil management or improve food quality and food safety).
  • Creating public awareness about Community Farming through our dissemination activities will increase support for circular agriculture and Community Farming and EU citizens to become active in setting up a Herenboeren-farm together with a community.

Key Milestones

30 new Herenboeren-farms across Germany, France and Belgium that serve between 5.000 and 8.000 households, for a total of around 90.000 trees. The second milestone is a total of 80 new farms, for a total of 250.000 new trees planted.

  • 3 self-steering sister-organizations of Herenboeren in Germany, France and Belgium each have a public-private ecosystem of relevant experts.
  • A knowledge center and a test-farm of 90 hectares with a co-developed legal structure, a digital knowledge- and data sharing platform and an ongoing research and project agenda.
  • An international partnership through our membership of Access to Land with its associated members and a network of relevant investors in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium that accelerates the process for (Herenboeren)farmers of getting access to fertile and sustainable land.

July 6, 2020

Project team

  • Tom Bosschaert


  • Rebecca Sampson

    Strategy & Partnerships

  • Saskia Van Loozenoord

    Communications Specialist and Project Manager

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