After a wonderful 5 days in Belgium, we were sad but excited to explore a new country. This morning was the first morning in The Netherlands. The start to the morning included buffet breakfast at the hotel which was followed by an educational presentation by Engelie Beenan, one of the founders of Oregional, a "local for local" farmer cooperative based in the Nijmegen region of The Netherlands. We have found that cooperatives are common in The Netherlands so that farmers can share costs and work together to sell their products.
This specific cooperative helps local farmers sell their products in the local area (i.e. Restaurants and hospitals.) Mrs. Beenan described that sometimes one item can travel over 400 'food miles' when they are simply traveling to an end destination of 75 km away, which is not economical. An additional reason for the cooperative is that The Netherlands has negative food margins because even though they are a very small country, they are the 2nd largest exporter in the world. Local farmers can pay to be a member but in the future, Mrs. Beenen said that they consumers can be members as well. When choosing farmers, Oregional selects farmers that meets specific standards, higher than what the government requires, some have even higher standards. All of us in IBIP were very interested and excited to ask question. We would like to give Mrs.Beenen a big thank you and thank her for being with us during our travels to Amsterdam.
Our first destination of the day was a Wind Energy Cooporation. There we met Danny , who brought us to an 85 meter high wind mill located in rural Amsterdam. This gearless 2.25 Euro ($3 mill USD) wind mill can support 1800 households in the EU (Or 300 to 400 American homes.) The large difference is due to Americans using less gas and more electricity in their homes, more specifically the air conditioning that is required in our summers. The high cost is often shared by many. In this case, the cost is divided amongst 1800 investors. With no surprise wind energy is the 2nd leading energy provider behind hydropower. But because The Netherlands is flat, there are no incentives for people to use this type of energy.
We learned that the energy tax in the Netherlands is very high, at 72%. This is why the they have moved to utilizing windmills. We were very excited when we were allowed the opportunity inside the windmill. The inner structure inside was really simple, with only a few machines running. After a few fun photos, we said goodbye to Danny and climbed back aboard the bus.
We then journeyed to Landmarkt.This trendy market store was one of the highlights for the day not only because of the free samples of their freshly grown strawberries, recently squeezed orange juice and edgy asparagus soup, but by none other than the fact of their hospitality, professionalism, and ability to give us clear insight on their future mission. Their overall goal is to bring original food that pays respect to the environment while being tasty and fresh. This informational presentation was given to us over a light lunch which included a delicious tomato soup, steaming hot tea, and a variety of freshly prepared sandwiches. Some of us chose to indulge further by purchasing our favorite food, but it needed to be quick because we were off to Amsterdam!
After trying the most AMAZING strawberries at the Local Markt, we loaded the bus and headed for Amsterdam. Driving into the city, we realized it would be one of the interesting architectural stops on our tour of Europe, as every street was lined with tall, somewhat tilted townhomes.The buildings gave a sense of quirky-ness to the city. While snapping some quick pictures, we climbed off the bus and got onto boats for a canal tour. Some of the buildings were massive, but the best part of the tour was just riding through the city streets and seeing all the people and beautiful scenery of Amsterdam. The canal was such a central part of the city. It seemed like more people rode around in boats than drove cars! The most apparent trend about the city was the bikes, though. Being in college, we are always used to looking before we cross sidewalks, but Amsterdam had many many more bikes than Champaign ...they even had a bike parking garage filled with more than a billion bikes (it seemed); something most of us had never seen in our lives! After getting a little taste of the city from the boat tour we were anxious to start exploring.
Upon arriving back at the boat docks, we all split into little groups for some free time to walk around. People came back to the bus with a lot of interesting stories. We found that Amsterdam is largely a tourist city; most of the people we talked to on the street were not Dutch, surprisingly.
A lot of us were able to see the city center with shops, statues, and the wax museum. We didn't have time to go inside but seeing the famous building was pretty cool. Although we were only able to spend 3 short hours in the city, it was a very interesting 3 hours and many of us want to return some day in the future!
For one of the less intensive days of the trip, this day was very eventful and highly enjoyable. We were so happy to learn about a new business model in Europe that is Oregional, experience a windmill upclose and personal, eat lunch at and learn about new type of market, and explore the crazy city of Amsterdam. We have many thanks for everyone that made this day possible, successful, and interesting.