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Grower Leo Henckens sees the asparagus season kicks off

"When the sun makes its appearance, large volumes of asparagus will follow"

Saturday, April 20th marked the official kickoff of the asparagus season at Hoeve 't Bommesaarke in Kinrooi. For the occasion, Flemish Minister of Agriculture Jo Brouns was a guest at the farm of Leo Henckens and Carine Snijkers. "It's always a special moment to let people know that we have, perhaps, the last true seasonal product again," says Leo Henckens.

This year's theme, 'Quality Takes Time', is more fitting than ever. "The asparagus is growing slowly this year. It's staying cold just a bit too long, which means we're getting off to a late start. Even on Saturday itself, we had to wait a bit because we were unlucky with the weather. I even offered the minister a raincoat, but he wasn't too keen on that," Leo laughs. "Overall, though, it was a beautiful day. We had a few showers, but otherwise, we can't complain."

"The minister spoke about how our own food supply is more important than ever. We've noticed that since the farmer protests. It's known within the sector, but not yet among the general public. We can keep bringing in every type of food from all over the world, but that's not sustainable in the long run. It means that for local supply, either prices have to go up or there simply won't be anything left. That importance was emphasized again on Saturday."

"Moreover, we need to return to seasonal eating. Should we have everything available all year round? There's more and more debate about this. Asparagus remains the quintessential seasonal product. That distinguishes them, but shouldn't there be more? We also have an ecological footprint that needs to be considered. Those were some of the key points Minister Brouns raised."

After this serious note, the season was then officially opened in celebration. "We once started this because people would come asking if we had asparagus by the end of June. That was at the end of the season, but in this way, we want to show the general public that this is the time to go to your farmer and buy them fresh. We celebrated nicely with an asparagus snack and a drink. We're off to a good start again."

Larger volumes still need more sunshine
However, the large volumes are still a bit off. "The quality is superb," continues Leo. "But they just don't want to come out yet. They're shivering a bit because it's too cold. Sometimes we still have freezing weather at night, so progress is slow. The price is at a nice level, and the demand is definitely there. People are fed up and want the asparagus by now. We also notice this in our direct sales, which are going well. Maybe too well, since people sometimes ask for more than we have. The volumes are yet to come."

"We also laid the plastic quite late. Only last week did we lay the last sheet because we couldn't get onto the fields with the tractor. It's just too wet. The advantage of this is that the asparagus has had more than enough moisture, so when the temperature and the sun come out, it's going to be fantastic. They will come out at some point. I'm not worried about that, but it's just a matter of waiting for when."

"It's more that it's frustrating for our staff. They come from Poland and want to work full days to earn money. Luckily, we have a core team that has been coming to us for several years. They know it's simply too cold to harvest on a large scale. It will remain so for the next week, but next weekend we're hopeful for 16 degrees. We need some sun as well, and then we can really get started. We're all dependent on the weather. This year, every cloud is a storm, so it's just a matter of waiting. Nevertheless, we still see it very positively," Leo concludes.

For more information:
Leo Henckens
Hoeve 't Bommesaarke
Kessenicherweg 27
3640 Kinrooi, Belgium
+32 494 87 17 91
[email protected]

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