The FarmThe Ongenaerthoeve is an organic farm in the Wase Polders, to the west of Antwerp. It produces grains, seeds, vegetables, potatoes, nuts and fruits, among other things, in a system with agroforestry.
Its HistoryIn 1994 François Ongenaert switched to organic farming. François is the 6th generation on a farm which was founded around the start of the 19th century. It was a traditional farm with predominantly agriculture and pigs. Since the switch to organic farming there has been a continual change of crops and animals. Pigs are no longer kept on the farm.
The Farm TodayFor the past 6 years, the farm has been gradually transformed to a system with agroforestry: oak, maple, and linden trees, as well as walnuts, sweet chestnuts, cherries and plums are combined with grain, quinoa, alfalfa, oilseeds, hazelnuts and various berries.
At the start of 2018 the “Pomona” cooperative was founded, a unique union of families in the Waasland and the Ongenaerthoeve. Consumers and farmers both have shares in the cooperative and decide its future together. The goal is to create a model of sustainable farming where consumers support the farmer (by buying shares) to produce food ecologically. The farmers ensure the availability of healthy food, including vegetables, potatoes, fruits, bread, eggs and quinoa.
Plans for the FutureThe goal is to provide a food supply which is as complete as possible trough Pomona. This means that livestock will be kept again in the future to provide meat and dairy. Keeping bees, cultivating mushrooms and more exotic crops such as kiwi’s, figs, sweet potato and yacón are also among the possibilities.
The system of agroforestry used on the farm is not an end-goal, but rather a transition to permaculture. The perennials, specifically trees and shrubs (hazelnut, berries,…) will become more important, whereas annuals will become less so. The decision regarding which crops to grow is based on our idea of a healthy diet, which should include more spelt, nuts, berries, seeds and oils (containing omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids) than currently present in the standard diet. That is why they are grown on our fields.