Farmers on Schiermonnikoog opt for nature-inclusive agriculture

Targets for the route to 2025

For most visitors calm, open space and overwhelming natural beauty are the attractions of Schiermonnikoog, one of the Wadden Islands. At the same time the island has a strong agrarian tradition: farming was already being done there in 1194. At the moment there are still seven active dairy farms. The wonderful thing is that all seven can see a future for their business. However, they face a major challenge: their nitrogen emissions must be drastically reduced to minimise the impact on the natural surroundings. They face that challenge with full conviction, for example by reducing a third of their livestock to achieve a reduction in nitrogen emissions that lies 15% above/below the required limit. The process did not proceed without a hitch, but by now all the farmers have signed up to a plan of campaign. Strootman Landschapsarchitecten was involved in the process and drew up a target for the next ten years.




Louis Bolk Instituut


Louis Bolk Instituut

Surface Area

280 ha

Design Year




The island was the first National Park of the Netherlands and is also a designated Natura2000 area. The intensification of farming and the increase in nitrogen deposits led to a drop in natural quality. The Friesland Regional Authority imposed a reduction of 20% of nitrogen emissions on the farmers by the end of the PAS period (2021). It was left to the farmers themselves to choose how to do this. To prevent any one them from having to be bought out, and convinced by the arguments of Jan Erisman from the Louis Bolk Institute on why alternatives were possible now that things had to change, the seven farmers took the joint decision to start farming in a more nature-inclusive way.

It was an intensive and at times difficult process lasting six years, but by now the farmers are on the winning side. Schiermonnikoog has been selected by the Regional Deal Nature-Inclusive Agriculture North Netherlands as one of the experiments to provide input in order to accelerate the national transition to a nature-inclusive agriculture in 2030. It guarantees the farmers an income for five years of the transitional period. A large part of the milk production will be processed on the island and retailed under its own special label. The regional authority is contributing to this. The goose population will continue to be accommodated on the island, both on the mud flats and in the polder. The farmers are going to experiment with planting rows of different crops to provide a more diverse protein-rich feed for their livestock.

The farmers themselves say that they are not representative of all farmers in the Netherlands. Farming on an island means that you cannot undertake large-scale agriculture. All the farmers have subsidiary activities such as keeping horses or offering guest accommodation. They are already taking nature into account all the time. They care for oystercatchers, black-tailed godwits, lapwings and redshanks. They are now building on that tradition, to secure a future for their business and as a possible model for other farmers in the Netherlands. The local process was assisted by the Louis Bolk Institute and Strootman Landschapsarchitecten. Our targets indicate the route towards 2025.

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