"Anyone can buy asparagus from us"

Dutch asparagus farm grows from 6 to 72 hectares in 11 years

"Anyone can buy asparagus from us," begins Willem van Gerven of the Dutch asparagus cultivation company of the same name.

Van Gerven can count on broad sales to supermarkets, wholesalers, and the hospitality industry in the Benelux.

It also has a few wholesalers from West Germany and northern France as customers. And many locals know where to find this farm's asparagus store.

In 11 years, this company's acreage has grown from six to 72 hectares. "I finished my studies in 2012. My parents didn't want me to become a grower, but a salaried job wasn't for me. In the first year, we added 8.5 hectares. We're now at 72 hectares of open-field cultivation, part of which is heated." Willem does not rule out further growth. "As long as we can organize it. But if things start going wrong, we'll stop expanding immediately," he says.

"It's not about growth as such, but if there's market demand and you can organize it well, you must have a certain acreage. There's good reason for the Dutch asparagus sector's recent rapid scale increase. After all, the sorting and peeling machine costs as much whether it runs for one or ten hours a day. That's why, these days, you have to have volumes. Still, for us, quality remains more important than quantity."

Willem describes the current season as quite calm. "The asparagus is arriving very gradually. We've had plenty of cold nights, and demand is good. The season is, therefore, generally satisfying, and I expect its last five weeks to also go well. In other years, people had tired of asparagus a bit by June, but with last week's nice weather, sales immediately shot up again. Though we'd already harvested more kilos by now last year, harvesting is going well with no extremes," he says.

Van Gerven is, so far, not struggling to find enough staff. "Fortunately, our employees like returning to work here. Even in the pandemic, we always had enough workers. The tight labor market is easing slightly, so there are more new recruits. At the beginning of the season, we even had trouble keeping everyone working, but that depends on the weather. However, people sometimes forget that we grow asparagus all year round. We're busy with this product daily in October and November, too, not just with the harvest."

"We usually start the harvest season in the second week of March. You're not talking about real volumes, but we can supply the first enthusiasts. Any earlier, and people aren't ready for asparagus. Prices have dipped significantly this year," explains Willem.

"Earlier this week, ZON was selling AAs for €5.50, and in Belgium, they were going for €6.50. In this period around Ascension, prices are normally at their lowest because the early and late variety supplies coincide. After Pentecost, prices often rise again. We're closing the early varieties' season this week."

Cumulus is Van Gerven's main asparagus variety. "It's the most beautiful asparagus there is. It's not for nothing that this variety wins taste tests year after year," Willem continues. "Many growers find it a difficult variety, but if you can cultivate it, it's the best variety that provides good yields." 

"For when Cumulus is no longer available in June, we have Backlim as a late variety. It also tastes nice. Young people are increasingly buying asparagus too. They eat asparagus not only with ham and eggs but also use it in stir-fries and salads," Willem, who is optimistic about this 'white gold's' popularity, concludes.

For more information:
Willem van Gerven
Van Gerven Asperges
7 Hoeven
5688 GS, Oirschot, NL
Email: info@vangervenasperges.nl
Website: www.vangervenasperges.nl

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