Hoeve Kazan, a beef cattle farm owned by John and Saskia Joha, is located on the borders of North and South Holland and Utrecht. They started with four cows and five sheep and now have a thriving business with a thriving farm shop.
How did a shoemaker’s daughter and the youngest son of a dairy farmer end up here? It started in 2003, but to understand the story properly, we need to go back a little further in time. Saskia had to make a business plan for the agricultural school she was studying on. Not being able to rely on a parental farming business, she made a plan for a home-selling beef cattle farm. After her training she started working as a milk sampler and worked on John’s parental farm. That was a small dairy farm that John’s older brother was going to take over. John himself went to work as a planner in construction. But both John and Saskia had a big wish to start their own farm. John: “When we heard that this farm was for sale, we went to the real estate agent together. In the end, it took us seven months to complete the sale.” Finding funding turned out to be quite a task despite the solid business plan that Saskia had made during her studies. The surrounding land was bought by John’s parents, and these eight hectares are now leased. In addition, 21 hectares of land was purchased a few kilometres from the farm in 2015.
They started with four cows and five sheep, but the company has now grown considerably. They always continued to work next to it, but less and less hours. In the beginning they were seen as hobby farmers, now that more than half of their income comes from the farm, they are ‘normal’ farmers with a job next to it. John: “I will always keep working next to it. Just because I like it.”
Because there is more demand for meat than they can produce themselves, they want to build a new barn that is not only larger but also provides more animal welfare and where it is also more pleasant for them to work. If the new barn succeeds, the company can grow from 20 calf cows to 30 to 35 calf cows, in total about 100 animals. In the meantime, they also sell beef from an organic farmer a little further down the road.
The basis of their business is the sale of beef from their own Limousin herd. They also sell their own lamb, pork and chicken from other organic companies. Saskia started selling in a self-build booth with a freezer in it, but now there is a farm shop that is open every Friday afternoon and Saturday. About 70 to 80 customers come every week. The number of customers has increased significantly since the start of the corona crisis. John: “There are occasional lines in front of the shop.” Those customers consist of ‘barbecue men’ who come for a nice piece of meat to put in their Green Egg BBQ, but also vegetarians who eat meat very occasionally. What binds them is high-quality organic meat, 100 percent grass-fed and produced in an animal-friendly manner without antibiotics. Saskia: “Personal attention is important, for example talking about preparing the meat. In addition, I occasionally organize tastings with tasty snacks. Partly because of this, the customers from the very beginning are still there
Customers come from all over the region, from Amsterdam, Haarlem and Hoofddorp to Amstelveen. There are also expats from The Hague. Saskia: “One took his American girlfriend who had never been on a farm. She was allowed to hold a lamb, tears of happiness run down her cheeks.” They also deliver meat to the region. Saskia: “Sometimes we get requests to deliver outside the region, but then I prefer to refer to an organic company near them. That’s why we don’t have a webshop.” They do not supply the catering industry because they often only want to purchase the more luxurious parts and they want to keep enough of that for their customers. Customers do not have to purchase meat packages, but can choose what they want to buy. In practice it is no problem at all to get rid of all parts of the animal.
Edited article written for Newbie published (in Dutch) in the Ekoland Magazine of April 2021 by Marcel Vijn, Wageningen University and Research