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Re: Cycling Farmers
« Reply #30 on: July 14, 2019, 23:08 »
Thanks Drummer, it's really an interesting article. Too long to translate but I may share with you the main ideas (in my humble opinion). Was he really in a breakaway lately?

It starts with a quote by Frederik himself:
Farming and cycling are two radically different worlds

The Backaert family owns the holding « De Sint-Michaëlshoeve » in Michelbeke, a small village in the entity of Brakel, just before the Berendries.

Farming in that area is very hard and several farmers received warnings (orange or red cards), meaning that they had to stop with organic fertilisers [which means they have to use chemical fertilisers or what ??? It's absurd!] and there are problems with the erosion of their soils. Their holding is about 800m away from a natural area, as well. It's not a coincidence if there were farmers' demonstrations on the road sides of the spring classics in 2017. The prices are very high for the landowner and the workforce is very expensive. It's getting real hard to compete with Poland or even with France.

Christian, Frederik's father, is 67 and milks about 80 cows. He's not optimistic for milk farmers in Flanders
Either we work on a knife edge for the global market or else we work for a niche market

The family chose for the second option. So they had to get away from the easy sales for the industry and opt for the short circuits and direct sales. Of course the products had to be top quality. The farm diversified. It now ranges from raw milk, butter, buttermilk and quite a lot of cheeses: young cheese, semi hard cheese, half old cheese and even cheeses with aromatic herbs (says the mother, Christine). They also sell yogurt, which is crucial . If they can't sell it they are done. The farm is really in the middle of the village, which of course helps.
It's a lot of work but it's worth it

They have also transformed a former barn into a place to welcomes buses and groups of visitors, like that group who combined visiting their farm and the archeological museum of Velzeke, which not far away. However since the noughties, organised visits are much less frequent than used to be.

The cheeses are made of raw milk, they don't pasteurise. Food hygiene has to be impeccable.

I skip to the chapter dedicated to non dairy production: 25-30 hectares of maize/corn, 15-20 hectares of potatoes, 8-9 hectares of beans, 5 hectares of sugar beetroots, 3-4 hectares of bere (6-row barley), 2 hectares of field beet/mangold.

The prices for potatoes are desastrous this year, which those who opted for free market feel powerfully. The Backaert family has potato hangar with can contain 1,000 tons of potatoes but it's a risky market because you can never predict what the eventual outcome would be.

Frederik Backaert has raced 108 days in 2017 !!!! This means he didn't have much time to give a hand at the farm. 108 days must really be make him one of the most active in the peloton that year.  :cool

Frederik has made studies at a school for agriculture in Roeselaere (Roulers is the name in French, which you can see in the article). He could take the farm over from his parents but it's a real hard job. He's considered using a milking robot but using a robot doesn't mean less work.

For the moment he's fully dedicated to cycling but relativises about it. In cycling you are quickly famous but also quickly forgotten and then he recalls the ill fates of some farmboys like him: Igor Decraene and Stig Broeckx [let's make things clear here though, Stig is, thank God, still alive  :) and Decraene's passing away had nothing to do with cycling practice].
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