We were off on our way to see the windmills! We took a metro and a waterbus to get to Alblasserdam to get our bikes to get to Kinderdijk. Since we were not from the Netherlands, we got red bikes so that others know we are new to riding bikes in the Netherlands. Here, they do not wear helmets and they have right away over cars and people walking. I was very overwhelmed at first because I am short and the bikes were high up (even on the lowest setting) because the Dutch are tall people so I struggled the motion of starting the bike. Also, even back at home, I never rode in the street before on a bike so it was intense for me to be riding in the street, next to cars, and without wearing a helmet (good thing my parents were not there to see this)! Then we got to Kingerdijk where the we saw the windmills! Unfortunately they recently cut down all the tulips but seeing the windmills was a breathtaking site! Then we headed back to the bike rental store for some lunch and our guide with us told us that we biked a 10k! Then we went back to Rotterdam where Rosanne took us on a walking tour where we saw the oldest building that survived the bombing of 1665 and learned about what was going on in Rotterdam and the Netherlands as a whole during WWII. We got some free time to explore and eat and I (with some other people too) went to the Market Hall where they had so many vendors and shops selling all sorts of food. It was a great stop to be at. I was excited for tomorrow to be going to Amsterdam for the day!
Rosanne was not here today so her father, Victor, was with us for the day. Everyone is suppose to introduce a speaker at the different places that we have been visiting. I was supposed to introduce someone at Koppert Cress but there was only one person and we already had a speaker for that person so I was put on back up. However I decided to introduce Victor that morning on the bus as we were traveling to our first place, which was at Den Haan Zaden. This is a specialized company in small-scale multiplication of flower- vegetable and grass seeds for the professional seed trade. We saw some of the equipment and how it is used and the fields where the greens were growing. They clean the seeds by a gravity separator and I learned that bigger seeds germinate better because the bigger seeds have a bigger endosperm, which is were the food source is. I thought it was interesting that there were breeding areas in the field by pollinating through the air.
Then we went to Prins & Dingemanse which is the center of shellfish farming in the Netherlands. They have been pioneers in oyster and mussel farming since 1880. They have different plots in the water for getting the shellfish that they use GPS so they know their location. It is important that the know where and when the oysters were caught for food safety reasons. I thought it was cool to see the the oysters and muscles going through the conveyor belts. With all of this shellfish in mind we went to the village of Yerseke for free time. We walked around the village and got some food at a market that was going on and then went to a restaurant that had fresh caught oysters.
Then we went to an onion farm. This company, Wiskerke Onions grow a huge variety of onions such as red onions, yellow onions, shallots, sweet onions, pink onions, and even garlic. This was the first time that our speaker was a female. She is 28 years old and she is very ambitious and has a strong vision for the future of the company. I learned so much from her about this family runned company. I learned that onions grow towards the sun and onions get more stressed during the winter time because the sun is out for a shorter amount of time. They mainly export their onions to countries in Africa and Asia due to climate, water quality, and high consumption that they cannot keep up. Then we got a tour of the storage of the onions. Afterwards, we went on the bus and Victor gave a very informative presentation about Zeeland which is covered more by water. Zeeland is known as ‘land in the sea, of the sea’. We then got dinner and then back on the bus back to the hotel. Usually every night back in the hotel lobby, a group of students lead a discussion about the day before. Since we had a long drive back, we decided to have our discussion on the bus. I was part of the leaders of the discussion and I decided to talk about the grocery store that we visited. There was so much to talk about from the day before because there was so many places that we went to. Once we got back to the hotel, I learned that Victor was leaving and Rosanne would be back for the rest of the trip. I thought he would be with us for another day at least, but I was still ready to thank him and present him a gift from the class. So today I had two leadership roles in one day. The first day we landed I was meeting manager and then today I was an introducer and facilitator. At least I was all done with my three leadership assignments and now I can relax and get ready for tomorrow where we are now all done with visiting agricultural places and we can be tourists as we explore Rotterdam and see the windmills! Stay tuned for my adventures!
This was our longest day and earliest start because our first stop was going to the flower auction in Aalsmeer: Flora Holland at 6 am. This company started in a cafe where they would put flowers on the tables in the cafe. The flowers were brought in by a flat boat. Years later they did small auctions and in 1972 they moved to their current location. They have about 65,000 transactions and on a busy day they have 14,000 trolleys going around keeping track of all the information. I found it interesting that the people were standing rather than sitting and this is because it is easier to get on and off the trolley while they are standing. I’ve noticed in America, people will tend to ride around in more of a cart form of transportation so that they are sitting down, rather than standing. We got to see how the auction work and I thought it would be like how it is in America with someone talking really fast and the price goes up. However, the prices actually go down in their auctions. They have this circle and the prices start high and go lower so people will watch to see when it gets lower and try to get the best price that they can. Afterwards we went across the street to Oz Export/ Import where they are one of the bigger flower exporters in the Netherlands. They specialize in cut flowers and they emphasis on Europe. They have a large cold storage where they have a large stock of complete assortment of flowers. They have an orange conveyor belt system that is 2.8 miles long! I thought it was great to visit both places to see how the auction works, how the flowers are stored, how the consumer sees the flowers and buys the flowers, and how the flowers get to the consumer. We then went to another potato farm where they had organic and non- organic potatoes. I liked seeing the differences between the organic and non-organic potatoes and how they are treated differently.
Then we got to stop at a grocery store. I noticed so many differences compared to grocery stores that I’ve been to in America. The stores have more fresh produce and way less frozen foods. The portions were smaller. People shop more frequently, rather than once a week, so that they can buy fresh food. Some things that my peers bought were snacks that are not in America such as other flavored chips like paprika. Other things they bought were things they wanted to eat as a snack like fresh produce because we were up early and did not have lunch. Also things that they ran out of like deodorant or things they wanted to have with them throughout the trip like water. The next stop was lunch at a company restaurant inside of Koppert Cress. This restaurant is Rob & Bob Fair Food where they believe meals should be consistent of 80% plants and 20% animals. I thought this concept was interesting because
they were focused on both health and the environment. Then we took a tour inside of Koppert Cress where they have unique plants and microgreens that have an effect on the senses such as flavor. They use a pink light due to green light getting absorbed and LED lights to save on electricity and sustainability. They make cress, microgreens, taste like other foods such as garlic or broccoli. This is great to use because, for example, there is still that garlic flavor without having garlic breath afterwards. We got to try some of the cress, one of them tasted like broccoli and another gave off a tingling sensation in the mouth. I never had food that small give off such a powerful flavor. The final place that we went to was Keringhuis, which is a public water management information center about flood risk management in the Province of Zuid-Holland and the impressive Maeslant storm surge barrier. Most of the Netherlands is below sea level so there are numerous dams that help keep the water out. We got to go outside to see one of the dams and learn about how it functions and what it takes to open the dam. It was so cool to learn about these dams because I never thought about the behind the scenes of what helps the Netherlands stay dry. After this day filled with so many different places, we had dinner and went back to the hotel. I had to make sure I got a good night sleep because the next day I had some leadership roles I needed to do, so stay tuned for the next post about that!
On the second day, we started by having a buffet in the hotel. There was a nice selection of deli meats and cheeses, various bread slices and croissants, assorted spreads such as jams and peanut butter, sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, and chocolate sprinkles. We then went to a Jersey dairy farm where they had jersey cows there. They were fed a grass diet, though they need more than that to get vitamins and minerals so they are fed a mixture of salt, compact herbs, and seaweed. The cheese the farm makes goes to special shops then goes to higher end restaurants, so they are not sold in supermarkets. The cheese wheels are held together by ghee, not wool glue, and they are stored at a 90% humidity at 16 C. They have four types of cheese at different ages: pril (3 months), ryp (8 months), olde (1 year), and pracht (1.5 years). We were able to try all four types of cheese and I noticed that the older the cheese got, there was more of a crunch due to the protein, it was not salt. I liked all of the cheeses because I am a huge cheese fan but my favorite cheese was the youngest one, pril, because it was the creamiest one (which is the the type of cheese texture I like the best). The farm was kind enough to let us buy their cheese which they vacuumed sealed so the cheese could be preserved and get through customs. I bought the pril because it was my favorite and I wanted to share some with my family. We went to have lunch at a cafe where they had different sorts of bread, deli cheeses and meats, sliced cucumber and tomatoes, and sorted jams, sprinkles and butters. This was similar to our breakfast. I asked Rosanne about the sprinkles and she said that they like to put sprinkles on top of their bread. After lunch we went to Scholtens Farm which was a potato farm. They use a solid fertilizer rather than a spray. I learned that when there is a black spot on a french fry that means when the potato is cold the starch converts to sugar and when its warm the sugar converts back to starch, but if it doesn’t convert back then the sugar burns when the potato gets fried. I will never look at a fry with a black spot on it the same way now! Tomorrow is going to be a busy day so stayed tuned for that post!