Jan and Erna’s Vision

Jan and Erna have always had an interest in renewable energy. Given the potential economic benefits for their business, they were keen to invest. As a former board member of the Dutch Federation of Agriculture and Horticulture (LTO), Jan very much wants to get involved in this. The couple explored various options, such as wind turbines, biogas, etc. Finally, in 2008, they got in touch with the Courage Foundation, which was looking for a farm that was willing to take part in the “Photon Farmer” project. The aim of the project is to store captured solar energy for later use. Jan and Erna’s dairy farm was selected, which means that they are now entitled to call themselves the first “Photon Farmers” in the Netherlands.
“We wanted to go that extra mile for our farm” says Jan. “In taking the decision to upgrade our dairy farm to renewable energy, we hope to make it more economically attractive and viable. This is still something of a rarity in the Netherlands. But there is more to it than that. We want to encourage other farmers to invest time and effort in expanding their operation. After all, those who focus purely on dairy farming are opting for a rather lonely existence. We are proud of what we have achieved here, and we are keen to share our knowledge of modern farming techniques with others. Furthermore, we are glad of any opportunity to help boost the image of agriculture and dairy farming.”
So schools, fellow dairy farmersexperts, etc. are always welcome to visit us and have a look around. I feel that the “children’s story book” image of farming is in dire need of an update. The same goes for the image of “factory farming”. Visitors to our farm can see that we run a very cow-friendly operation. Also, you can learn a lot more about one another in a face-to-face chat. As business people, we are constantly seeking new challenges. Our strength lies in our ability to cooperate. Jan is the one with the professional expertise, and I enjoy being an organizer. Together, we can dream up and discuss many more options than either of us could come up with alone. Of course, we also keep a critical eye on one another too” adds a laughing Erna.
Aside from their professional activities at ’t Spieker, they are both socially active. For instance, Erna works as a special needs teacher and sits on the board of the Vierakker/Wichmond Oranjecomité (committee organizing celebrations in honour of members of the royal household). She uses her spare time to indulge her love of handicrafts and amateur theatricals. She is also a keen gardener. Jan has management positions with organizations such as the Achterhoek biogas association, “het Onderholt” Agricultural Nature Conservation Association, the Bronckhorst calf-rearing club, and the Almen/Harfsen mechanical equipment group. He is also politically active in the Bronckhorst branch of the VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy). His hobbies are reading and amateur theatricals.
The project was officially opened on 22 September 2010, by the couple’s sons - Dirk and Tim. The brothers recorded a report on the “Photon Farmer” project for Jeugdjournaal (a news programme for children).
 “Everybody in the agricultural sector needs to keep a close eye on the developing opportunities offered by renewable energy. This is an opportunity to boost your income. Right now it involves subsidies, but this may not be the case in the future. As a sector we have both the scope and the business acumen to use wind turbines, solar panels, fermentation and refining. Renewable energy is also important to our industry’s “license to produce”.`   
Erna Roeterdink