Hans has owned a farm shop for 32 years and is happy with conscious consumers: “They don’t want those farm-raised vegetables anymore.”

Hans has owned a farm shop for 32 years and is happy with conscious consumers: "They don't want those farm-raised vegetables anymore."

Do you prefer to buy fruits and vegetables from farms instead of supermarkets? Then you are not alone. The farm shop is popular. Hans noticed that, too. He opened his first farm shop years ago and sees demand steadily increasing.

Nowadays it is very common as a farmer to sell your produce in your own store. Hans Hoekman actually opened one 32 years ago, when not much else was done at all.

Rooting in the ground

His first store was Goes in Zeeland. It was moved some time ago to Serooskerke, on the same island. In addition, they – Hans, Son and Partners – have also had a shop in Nordauil, also in Zeeland, for the past 10 years.

Hans is now 72 years old, but he still enjoys his work as a farmer and seller of farm produce. Although he hadn’t expected it before. “I belong to a family of poor farmers. We could hardly live on what we planted, so I did not envision my future.” He decided to study economics first, then psychology. “But at a certain point I realized: I only want one thing, and that is to dig in the ground with my hands.”

Hans Farm Shop

“That strawberry really radiates something.”

At first, Hans only grew apples and pears, but at a certain point he had enough. That fruit produced less and less. “Then I thought: Why not cherries? We have the perfect climate for that in the Netherlands.” He went looking for the right variety, with lots of flesh and a little pit. With success: Cherry continues to be the best-selling product in Hanes & Co. stores.

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In addition to cherries, they also sell fruits, vegetables, and other regional products. Not only from themselves, but also from other cultivators. Hans is very selective with who he deals with: “We only sell healthy, good produce that has been grown in peace. A farmer from Brabant and this fruit really radiates something.”

Hans with cherries

Don’t grow vegetables

There are also occasionally large chains on Hans’s doorstep, but he prefers to sell his items directly from the floor to the consumer. It is not compatible with the Dutch auction system. “Fruit grown in Zeeland is taken to the center of the country to be auctioned there and then taken back to Zeeland supermarkets. This is very bad for the environment and the fruit.” Hans, who only grows ecologically himself, without pesticides, so he doesn’t want to contribute to that.

He also says his customers expect him to be mindful of his products. “They’re paying more and more attention to the food they put in their mouths. They think it’s important that it doesn’t have pesticides, that it grows softly. And they don’t want any more of those farm-raised vegetables.”

a guard

Businessman Thomas Siah sees it, too. In 2020 he developed the app “Tasty at the farmer”, with which you can find out where a farm shop is located in the area. “We started a few years ago with dozens of affiliate stores on the app, we’re now over 2,000,” he says proudly.

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It also sees a significant increase on the user side. And something else stands out: “At first there was a definite dip in winter, but it’s gotten shorter and shorter. Nowadays people look for farm stores in their area almost all year round.” Accordingly, he concludes, popularity is increasing. “Buying from farms is here to stay, it’s no longer a trend.”

In contact with the manufacturer

In 2021, Ciahaya and his colleagues surveyed 1,300 consumers to find out why they like farm shopping. “The main reason is to support the local economy. They are in contact with Al-Sanea. In recent years, this has become increasingly important, at least to the people we interview.”

“Plus, people say they find fruits and vegetables that come straight from the farms really tastier. It makes sense that they’re very fresh and have a high nutritional value. It also fits with the fact that we’re finding seasonal foods increasingly important because of the climate.”

New crop for sale

He has not retired yet

Hans understands that many people like to be associated with a farmer who grows fruits and vegetables. “This conversation in and around the store is an important part of our business.”

Although, of course, the bulk still consists of working on the ground. He takes care of cherries, pumpkins and gourds, of which more than 100 varieties grow. And for red, white, black and gooseberry, plum in the fall. The 72-year-old farmer doesn’t want to think about a possible retirement pension. “I love being in the grove, with the plants and the creatures. Being busy with nature makes me happy.”


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