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1952 Numansdorp: The Sea Can’t Beat the Dutch

In het Amerikaanse tijdschrift Tractor Farming (maart-april 1952, Vol. 35 Nr. 2) verscheen een artikel onder de titel ‘The Sea Can’t Beat the Dutch’. Centraal stond de ambachtsheerlijkheid Numansdorp.
numansdorp-1952-03Precies een jaar na het verschijnen van dit artikel werden we verslagen door de zee….(tijdelijk).

ALMOST DUE SOUTH of Rotterdam, about ten miles on a good straight road that hurries through little villages built on top of the dykes, there is a town by the name of Numansdorp. Its inhabitants are farmers, tall blond men in high rubber boots, children who play along the road in their wooden shoes, and women who rest a minute in the late afternoon sun, their knitting needles flying. They are the fighters -in an endless battle with the sea over custodianship of the precious soil. One of the farmers of Numansdorp is A. B. H. Vlielander, operator of one of Holland’s largest farms. Called the Manor of Cromstrijen, the farm was a gift from the Emperor Maximilian of Austria to his faithful secretary and steward, Gerard Numan, in the year 1492. During the years, ownership of the land has been divided among the heirs, and in some cases sold, until now the farm has around 60 owners. Mynheer Vlielander is the fourth member of his family to manage the estate. His great-grandfather came to the farm in 1820, after fighting with Napoleon’s army. This Vlielander grew up on the manor, and prepared for his present duties by attending an agricultural college in Paris.

Soil conservation to Vlielander is the most basic part of farming. In a country with so little surface and so many people, the farmer must make every inch count. Vlielander, as other Dutch farmers, adds to his land wherever he can by putting in polders, a method of reclaiming below sea level land by building dykes, draining the water into canals, and then pumping it back into the sea. The Dutch government makes crop rotation a law. Farmers are forbidden to plant potatoes in the same land more than once every three years. Vlielander follows a four-year rotation program — wheat, potatoes, sugar beets and wheat. He plants clover with his wheat and, after he wheat is combined, plows the clover under. His rich, bottomland soil was fertile to begin with, and Vlielander farms to keep it that way.

numansdorp-1952-02Vlielander has a special problem with the heavy moisture content in the air. A grain dryer is part of his mechanical equipment, and potatoes are stored in a special building, constructed with humidity controls. Tall, well-built, with an easy sense of humor, Vlielander speaks English perfectly. He and his wife and son and small daughter live much as any prosperous American farm family. They are thrifty and unpretentious. Mrs. Vlielander is as interested in nutrition as are American women. During the war she learned about the seven basic foods, and she conscientiously tries to work them into her family’s diet. Their home is a stone house. connected to the office of the estate. From their patio, which looks out over gardens filled with flowers, vegetables and fruit trees to the Hollandsch Diep, they can see where two German guns were placed, firing at the English on the other side of the road. Early in the war, when the Germans invaded Holland, they broke the dykes and the Manor of Cromstrijen was in the path of the inundation. The estate suffered heavily, with its lands under water, its machinery and buildings ruined. But in the fall of 1945, Vlielander was able to gather in his first harvest.
After the Liberation, the manor became completely mechanized. Besides tractors, most of which are Farmalls, built in Europe, the estate operates beet and bean planters, combines, sugar beet harvesters and hay balers.
numansdorp-1952-01Principal crops are sugar beets, wheat and potatoes, followed by oats, barley, rye, flax and rape-seed. Vlielander’s crop yields are high, even by American standards. For instance, in 1949 his sugar beet yield was over 271/2 tons an acre. It’s easy to see where the credit goes for this—a sentence from the 1949 annual report reads, “From these figures it will be seen that the total mechanization of the Manor of Cromstrijen has been fully justified.” Although he realizes that many of his problems are dissimilar to those of American farmers, Vlielander would like to visit the United States to study farming methods in various sections of this country. And he would welcome American visitors to his farm operations in Holland. But he laughingly warns them not to expect to see windmills, for the “hooded heads and swinging arms” have almost disappeared from the Dutch landscape. Their job of pumping water has been taken over now by more efficient Diesel engine pumps.

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AFTER THE LIBERATION, most Dutch farmers turned to tractors, and now farming there is heavily mechanized.

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WOODEN shoes and rubber boots are part of the uniform of the Dutch farmer. Proper drainage is an ever-present problem.

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A. B. H. VLIELANDER (right) is manager of the Manor of Cromstrijen, one of Holland’s largest and completely mechanized farms. Sugar beets, wheat and potatoes are his main crops. The land, below sea level, is protected from the sea by dykes.

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Updated: juli 9, 2015 — 9:26 am

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