Last week in the Netherlands, construction started on a new 12-hectare greenhouse at the Royal Berry strawberry farm. This acreage increase requires more workers. And grower Jan van Genderen wants to house those people properly. He has come up with a plan for a residential park to house 350 employees. Jan informed the Lingewaard municipal council of this on December 2.
This year, temporary housing had already been organized for this growing business. That was done with the help of the municipality. The grower, however, wants to find a sustainable, long-term solution. He wants to build 180 apartments. These will be in a residential park opposite one of Royal Berry's cultivation sites.
This is what the residential park should look like. Images from the grower's presentation on December 2.
Situation has changed
Jan presented his plans to the council on December 2. He said it is very challenging for the sector to find and retain good seasonal workers. Royal Berry does not have problems with this yet. But the situation in the sector is changing. Better housing facilities are needed, says the grower. That is due to COVID-19 and longer harvest periods, but also because laborers are coming from even further away.
There have been ongoing discussions about a sustainable residential solution for 18 months now. "This is where the first steps have been taken. It's important that people are enthusiastic. You see that both in the municipality and the provincial council. I even think that there is national understanding for this situation. More and more people are coming to the Netherlands to work. You want to offer them a good place to live," says Jan.
The residential park will also have recreational facilities. It will have a hectare of natural area. And non-employees, too, can use the sports facilities, among other things.
According to Van Genderen, there is a 'will'. The council employee involved is enthusiastic too. He says it is the 'nicest plans he has seen to date'. Also important - during a recent neighbor meeting about housing, there were "zero complaints" about the current housing and its residents, "We're really proud of our people. The fact that our neighbors are also positive is vital," adds Jan.
The grower's temporary housing. He wants to change this soon and offer better, permanent housing.
Still, the decision-making process is taking (too) long. The construction of a new greenhouse has now started. That must be completed in 2022. Housing is, therefore, urgently needed. Meanwhile, the outdoor winter harvest has also begun. So, it is always busy these days. "Fortunately, I have good people to help with this."
Jan thinks time is short for realizing his plan next year already. "In that case, we'll opt for a temporary solution. That's in the hope of still being able to realize a permanent housing solution as soon as possible," he concludes.