How the Netherlands Led a Food Revolution

The Netherlands is a small country. It’s so small, you could fit it into the U.S. two hundred and seventy times. But it’s big when it comes to making food. Remarkably it has the second largest agricultural exports in the world, mainly through being able to produce vast amounts of food on tiny plots. The Netherlands isn’t exactly designed for
mass farming. Because of limited space farmers have learned to eke out as much as possible from the land. With a third of the country under sea level,
the Dutch mastered how to make land using levees and built windmills to drain marshland to create fertile soil. This area just outside of Amsterdam – Flevopolder – is the largest artificial island in the world and didn’t exist half a century ago. Nowadays over half the ground in the Netherlands is used for agriculture. It makes more food than it’s people can eat. But there was a time when the Dutch faced starvation. 1944 – and the Allies begin to liberate Europe. The Nazis occupy the Netherlands and begin a blockade of the North. It created a food shortage so severe, the
Dutch Government encouraged its people to forage for acorns and chestnuts. Tens of thousands perished from famine. After the war, as the Dutch rebuilt, ensuring food security became a priority. The issue was important to the new Minister for Agriculture Sicco Mansholt – a former farmer and a resistance fighter in the war. He would begin to drive changes that would turn farming into big business. Before the war, Dutch farms operated like
those in most other countries. Small plots had a few livestock and produced a mixture of seasonal crops to service local populations. Mansholt wanted mass production and built on a decades-long system of state support for farming. He pursued a policy of land consolidation.
Larger, more productive farms were encouraged to absorb smaller, less profitable farms. It was all about using less labor to improve yields. In 1963 the Government launched a fund to help older farmers sell up and to help young farmers start new businesses. State funding into research and technology such as fertilizers and machinery followed and thanks to aid from the US Marshall Plan, numbers of tractors rose quickly, helping farmers work more land. Dairy production grew fast as cooling tanks and milking machines were invented. In 1960 the average Dutch dairy cow would
produce 4200 kg of milk per year; in 2007 this had nearly doubled to 7,880 kg. Oversupply of milk wasn’t a problem – the
Dairy Board created Joris Driepinter and he encouraged kids to drink plenty
of it. But technical innovation didn’t stop with
machines. The dutch pioneered specialist greenhouses,
creating conditions that would result in many more plantings than ever before. “These greenhouses are in the south western section of the Netherlands and they enable farmers to
grow crops the year round.” “With temperature and humidity carefully controlled, an elaborate water system keeps the crops
properly moist” If you were to put all of the Dutch greenhouses
together today they’d cover an area the size of Manhattan. “Farming under glass, another example of
dutch ingenuity!” Then there was a huge discovery in 1959. The vast Groningen gas field would offer Greenhouse
horticulture a huge boost. Farmers profited from the cheap energy, as
their crops benefited from the heat and the added CO2. The Netherlands now has the world’s highest
yields per hectare for cucumbers, chili peppers and tomatoes; all carefully picked for their
profitability. Reducing water use is part of making efficiencies
too – today some farms use just four litres to grow a kilo of glasshouse tomatoes. The
global average is 214 litres. All this built on a rich culture of farming
that already existed. The Dutch were master breeders of plants and livestock and were
a nation of traders thanks to the ports at Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The State built on this expertise to transform
farming, including a focus on education and research, as part of a holistic approach to
benefiting the entire industry. It hasn’t all been good though – The Dutch
have been criticized for getting ahead with over-intensive methods and using synthetic
fertilizers to boost production. They’re now working to change this In 1999 the country used more fertilizer than
any other European country, spreading on average 500 kilos per hectare. By 2014 though, the
figure had more than halved. By working together farmers, scientists, businesses
and the state turned the Netherlands into a world leader in modern farming. Its knowledge and state of the art technology
will be vital in tackling the future of a rising global population, with billions more
mouths to feed.


  1. Comparing the Netherlands size with the USA is like comparing Wyoming to Russia. Maybe a more appropriate comparison could be with a similar size state ..

  2. I love it when at the start he mentioned food for the first time but the clip is actually showing tullip fields.

    I know lots of our grandparents had to eat tulips bulbs to not starve during WW2 but this is going to far lol

  3. Don't forget our wonderful bio industry. So many happy animals who live to the ripe age of 1 if they're lucky. Bless them.

  4. First lesson: In Dutch it is Nederland, in English it is: The Netherlands (The low countries). Get it?? The…

  5. when the netherlands are going down the north states of america would be a great place for the dutch (about 5-6 mil.)

  6. So maybe i am at 12 grade 1,80 meters tall because of the milk it doesn't makes any sense

    It is actually a fact that I am that tall at that grade lol

  7. it's amazing how any video that mentions the netherlands is spammed with 5/6th dutch comments

    like me. Ik ben Nederlands mensen!

  8. Ruben de Koe, when you mention your First Name in writing, de is written with non capital. And yes they do, but not a syndrome. Just proud and aware. Clearly you failed written Dutch. Duh

  9. Polish people work on duch fàrms for 3,5e.slavery continued. And is all Monsanto GMO.duçh çops arresting mothers with 1year old.geoinginiering every day.its like homotherapy

  10. The Netherlands: the largest nationalistic people in the world that doesn’t go around shoving their flags and nationalism down others’ throats without a reason

  11. Impressive yields, but its quantity over quality. Still prefer fruits and vegetables from Italy, France, and Spain! Much more flavor!

  12. I am not Dutch, I'm from the Netherlands. Just a detail, but non-the-less…
    Yes I'm proud of my country. That's why I'm writing in english, so more people can understand what I'm saying. We Nederlanders tend to make ourselves and our country more approachable by speaking several languages, besides Nederlands. We take pride and joy in the fact that we are known to be a very welcoming people such as tourists and businessmen.
    We are proud of our banner. That's why we don't show it every day on our houses. There has to be a festivity or other reason. But when we do hang our banners out, you can't miss it and you know there is something special going on.
    We are proud of our king and queen too. Altough most of us find they are getting too much money, at Kingsday we all celebrate his birthday on a great scale.
    Our history goes a long way back. We are living in a tiny country, but have made our marks everywhere on this planet. Not all to be proud of by the way. And we are still writing history.
    No most of us are not on wooden shoes. Most of us don't wear the old clothes, typical from our region. We discovered jeans long ago 😁

  13. All full of fertilisers and pesticides. Brazil, Netherlands and USA poisoning the whole world together! Let's be proud!

  14. Forage for chestnuts? Gasp! It's as if people haven't been doing that for thousands of years or something! Imagine singing songs about roasting chestnuts! How dreadful!

  15. The video ended by talking about the need to feed more billions in the future. While its commendable that theyve gotten extreme productivity, they mentioned the few species of tomatoes etc used. I hope they learn about the need to promote worldwide population control so they dont have to grow crops just for high food productivity while sacrificing flavor, nutrients, different varieties to sustain the world etc.

  16. i love how they got too much milk and their response was to convince people to just consume massive amounts of it

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