Jacco Merkens:

"Even more dependent on the whims of nature in organic"

Those who think that the switch to organic cultivation is easy, should read this article. "First of all it's a whole ordeal in the area of cultivation. It is also a way of life. We are in the middle of the switching period at the moment and it wasn't too bad in some ways, but other things were disappointing. As a company you become even more dependent on the whims of nature. You have to let things happen that you don't actually want as a conventional grower. It takes a lot of getting used to," says fruit grower Jacco Merkens.

In the intermediate period
He has an area of conventional varieties of around 30 hectares. "We are switching to organic with six hectares. We have been working towards this for years, we were already on our way to organics in the regular cultivation. For instance, we used manure and had experience with certain crop protection agents. This still doesn't make you an organic grower, not by a long shot." For now Jacco is sticking to six hectares. "We won't switch fully yet, the risks are very high. There is less harvest certainty and less harvest in organics. You also can't store the products for as long. It's all part of it. But it's very satisfying and there is a rising demand for it. As far as sales are concerned it is harder to find buyers in the intermediate period. Real organic fans want organic, but there is a market for those intermediate products. As long as you give them a story."

Jacco on the left with Redlove, one of the apple varieties that he grows.

Difference in price

There is quite a difference in price between organic and conventional. "There has to be, due to the extra labour and time spent. So far, the cultivation of organic fruit is progressing by trial and error for Jacco. "I hope to have mastered it in a few years. It's good to be conscious of it already as a grower, that there will be more demand for organic and residue free in the future. And you're better to start yourself, rather than being forced. Yet I don't expect all growers to switch, it's not for everyone. You sometimes have to help out in the orchard on a Sunday afternoon."

He has a tip for growers who are going to grow organically. "Join a sales group. There are already enough cowboys in conventional, we don't need it on the organic market."

For more information:
Jacco Merkens
Molenspoor 3
3985 SH Werkhoven
Tel: 0031 (0) 6-12390854

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