Livestock farmer Kurt Sannen advocates for making a farm sufficiently profitable in economic terms so it can be taken over by anyone, not just a family member. Many farms are still too reliant on unpaid family labour, which leads to a fragile and unsustainable financial situation. A farm is, and always will be, a business. The search for how farming and nature can be mutually reinforcing is key to the model adopted by Het Bolhuis. For Kurt Sannen, agroecology and cooperation provide the keys to success.
Kurt collects vegetable waste from a chicory farmer and grass clippings from maintenance work at an orchard. His cattle and sheep graze in the Dassenaarde nature reserve. The nature farm occupies 120 hectares, 100 hectares of which are owned by Natuurpunt and the Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos. Het Bolhuis only breeds old, local cattle and sheep breeds, mainly Kempen cattle and Ardennes Foxheads. They are ideal grazers for managing and conserving natural meadows in harsh conditions. Sannen supplements the dry natural grass with grass-clover and alfalfa he grows himself. The business model is adapted to what the nature area has to offer. This approach enables Sannen to achieve a local feed autonomy. Het Bolhuis fulfils Natuurpunt’s ecological management needs in exchange for using the land. According to Kurt Sannen, who in his capacity as an independent consultant also provides advice to local authorities, farmers and port authorities, there are still insufficient trials in Flanders of this type of ‘multilayered’ landscape – a landscape characterised by the combination of several types of land use . Het Bolhuis demonstrates that nature management, climate adaptation, farming and even recreation can form a single, integral and profitable whole.
Natuurpunt, Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos
circularity, biodiversity, management, food
region, municipality, site
Portraits: #4 Kurt
Livestock farmer Kurt has succeeded in establishing a number of win-win partnerships with nature organisations and fruit growers in the area, based on a vision that farming practices are part of a multilayered landscape.
photo: Mieke Debruyne, Diest 2020
Kurt Sannen nominated as Best Grassland Farmer
Kurt Sannen adapts his business model according to what the nature area has to offer, instead of viewing the latter as an additional management task. In the winter months, he supplements the beef cattle's dry natural grass, with grass-clover he grows himself.
photo: Veeteeltwebsite, Diest 2019