Marleen de Rooy
Marleen de Rooy
The cabinet wants it to be easier for farmers to start or expand childcare. There is a great demand for childcare, but farmers who want to start childcare on the farm run into many rules.
“That can’t be the case,” says Agriculture Minister Adema. He acknowledges that regulations hinder farmers from doing business, which is why he is going to talk to municipalities. “I hope that municipalities want to be more flexible with rules, and also give farmers room to do business.”
The demand for this form of childcare on farms is high, with waiting lists of up to two years. But farmers who want to expand the childcare branch of their company are hindered by all kinds of national and municipal regulations.
These concern, for example, surfaces and the emission of particulate matter. Also, the secondary activity, the reception, may not exceed the main activity, the farm.
“Childcare prices rise considerably every year. This is not the case in dairy farming, so the balance is quickly lost,” says Monique Litjens of the United Agricultural Childcare (VAK), which has 70 companies with about 3,000 child places.
“Some colleagues who want to stop farming, find themselves in the impossible position that they actually have to keep their cattle. Without a main branch, it is not a side branch. But the government does not want that either.”
Camping and shops
The fact that laws and regulations are “oppressive” in the development of agricultural childcare also applies to other secondary activities, such as care farms and farm shops, says farmers’ interest organization LTO.
And that while in 2030 it is expected that about half of the farmers will not only want to farm in their yard. “The rules have been devised for large-scale companies, but small-scale companies also have to deal with those rules,” says Arjan Monteny of LTO.
The result, according to LTO, is that “the growth and transition of agriculture is slower than it should actually be. It can just be faster and more beautiful.”
With a dire shortage of childcare places, Minister of Social Affairs Van Gennip is also calling on municipalities to look at how farmers can be encouraged to start a day care center.
“If farmers can set up a new business, it is a profit for the farmers, a profit for the children who can play outside and a profit for the parents.”
According to Van Gennip, it is now often a bottleneck due to the zoning plans and that is the responsibility of the municipalities. “But we can talk to municipalities, and we do.”
Femke wants bigger childcare on a farm, but rules make that almost impossible
In Westbeemster, Femke Akkerman of childcare center De Loeiende Koe has been trying to expand for about seven years now. A few kilometers away is a new residential area where there will soon be 590 houses. Residents regularly ask whether they can register their children. But she has a waiting list of about a year and a half. She takes care of 48 children and has 60 cows.
In their case, the fact that the area is on the Unesco World Heritage List also plays a role. “Setting up a stable is not allowed in certain ways because of the transparency.”
New nitrogen calculation
“There is a lot involved in such an application and it is indeed complex,” responds the municipality of Purmerend, which includes Westbeemster. There is now a plan that meets the requirements and the municipality is positive about expanding childcare.
But now De Loeiende Koe of the province must first provide a new nitrogen calculation. “Cars that can drive onto the path emit more, which is harmful to the Natura 2000 area around here.”
New employees do know how to find their way to agricultural childcare, says Monique Litjens of the VAK. “But if you don’t like being outside and getting dirty, you have nothing to do with us.”