Jan Oosterom and Aad Sonneveld:

"Our new organisation is 'a large yet flexible club’"

As of 1 January, Van Nature and Best of Four members will continue as Oxin Growers. All of a sudden, this group is one of the largest growers associations in the Netherlands. "People keep mentioning how big we will soon be," says Oxin Growers' future chairman, Jan Oosterom.

"But I do not have to be the biggest. I want to be the best association for my growers." Jan says this in conversation with Aad Sonneveld in the Meer Van Nature magazine. Sonneveld will soon be Oxin Growers' vice-chairman.


Jan Oosterom (l) and Aad Sonneveld 

Jan Oosterom cultivates loose tomato in the Dutch town of Moerkapelle. His farm is 2.5 hectare in size. "The traditional loose tomato has actually become a specialty. I started farming on my own in 2000. Before that, I always worked with my father and brothers. My father grows cucumbers. My three brothers went further in anthuriums," the man introduces himself. He has been Best of Four's chairman for 15 years now.

We want to offer the best package possible
The fusion of these two sales cooperatives has resulted in one cooperative. This group not only has 1,029 hectares of glasshouse vegetables. It also has 2,105 hectares of full soil vegetables and 1,682 hectares of fruit. But scaling up was not Van Nature's main reason for resuming talks with Best of Four.

Aad says: ‘Van Nature could have lasted a few more years. However, it is about the members - offering them the best package possible to follow the right path from producer to consumer. If you are bigger, you can organize this better."

"Our trading houses are also hard at work. They are looking for an example on which they can model themselves. We want more influence. We have more opportunities to get goods to the consumer. We want to make better agreements."

Attending meetings
Oxin Growers' size helps. However, Jan Oosterom remarks, "I have an issue with the word 'might'. I would instead call it 'power'. Power in the retail sector, but also in government. When a large club speaks, it has more value."

"I have already noticed that I am asked to join more meetings. This is just because we are such a large organization. Especially attending meetings is becoming more important."

"You see decisions being made in The Hague without them taking the practical implications into account. We, along with other growers associations, put a lot of effort into representing our issues. If we had not done so, it would have been even crazier," Oosterom says.

Two price models
Best of Four and Van Nature held merger discussions three years ago. Then, the two organizations' different price models were a stumbling block. This difference is now seen as an advantage. "Times have changed. Now, there are other opinions on this. We said we will allow the two systems to continue side by side. We will then see which works best for the grower and the trader," adds Add.

'Flexible club’
The new Oxin Growers will have more than 260 growers. This group wants to do everything it can to help give the individual members a voice. How? "By being well organized. We want to remind everyone of their responsibilities. Above all, we want to keep considering things from the grower's perspective. We have glasshouses, full soil, and fruit farmers. All these groups have an important voice," explains Add. 

"We are a large yet very flexible club. We are independent. We can, therefore, take the best action for the future. The whole world is changing - export, exporters, retail. As a growers association, you must ensure that you can respond to each of these changes," concludes Jan.

Source: Meer van Nature Magazine (0180-696815) 


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