From Farmer to Farmer

A look behind the scenes at the bee-friendly farm “The Land of Milk and Honey”

Interview with Johan Bousseamaere from Nieuwkapelle, Belgium 

Written by Thomas van Loo (Inagro), translated by Anna Vollmer 

To support bees in agricultural landscapes, people often think of flower borders, wood edges and reasoned use of phytochemicals. But there are also other ways to help out wild bees.

In Nieuwkapelle (Diksmuide, Belgium) Johan and Isabel manage an organic farm where they integrate sustainable and well-considered decisions in their management. Johan is also a beekeeper.
Ruben Mistiaen from Inagro interviewed Johan about the management of their farm and how they integrate bee-friendly measures. You can watch the full recording of the interview and tour of the farm here:


Hi Johan, could you start by telling us a bit more about the structure of your company and how you approach things?

Our company consists of two large parts: on the one hand Isabel's parental company, which is operated as an arable farm. And on the other hand, my parental company, which is operated as a dairy farm with about 130 cows. Both companies switched to organic in 2016, and since 2021 we also make and sell our own hard cheeses and yogurt.

We follow a crop rotation of six years: three years of herb-rich grassland, followed by 3 years of arable farming. The herb-rich grassland lets the soil rest and enriches it with nitrogen. After these 3 years arable crops ensure that the accumulated nitrogen is used properly and the soil is supplied with carbon again. To enrich the soil with extra carbon, we always try to thresh the arable crops, and returning the straw to the soil. And in doing so we remove CO2 from the air and store it in the soil. This way of working benefits the life in the soil: a healthy soil is the starting point for healthy production.

Around the dairy farm, the cows follow a grazing schedule in which they get a fresh pasture every day, only returning to the same pasture after three weeks. The vegetation in the pastures consists of a mix of grasses and herbs. Each herb species roots at a different depth, which makes the whole vegetation more resistant to drought. The herbs also provide a more balanced pallet of minerals for the cows’ diets. The clovers ensure that we do not have to apply additional manure to the grassland.


© Inagro

Because the cows only return to the same plot every three weeks, the herbs in the grass-herb mixture have plenty of time to grow back. This way each pasture can flower for about 10 days before the cows return to the plot, and thus there are always some pastures that are flowering. The bees really appreciate that.

Research carried out within the BEESPOKE project showed that field beans are largely dependent on bees for good pollination. You also have field beans in your crop rotation. Could you explain how bees are supported on your farm?

In spring, there are many dandelions in the meadows as well as hazels, willows and some fruit trees that are going to bloom. Then the field beans bloom and when they have finished blooming, the clovers in the grass herb meadows begin to bloom intensively. The rotational grazing ensures that meadows are in bloom at any time. So we try to provide flowering plants in the area from early spring until late autumn.

Johan, thank you very much for this conversation and for the tour of the company!

Of course, you are very welcome!


© Inagro