Interview with Dirk de Bruin (our supplier of the beef bones)
Interview with Dirk de Bruin, Visionary and Owner of Zorg & Natuur VOF
At BABS, we are fortunate to work with a number of truly remarkable food producers, including Dirk de Bruin of Zorg & Natuur in The Netherlands, which is one of our beef bone suppliers.
Through their hard work, they are demonstrating the immense impact sustainable and ethical food production can have on society. We want to share their stories with you so we’ve gone out into the field to interview them in person — and we’ve had so much fun along the way!
I’m so excited to share our first interview with you. Dirk’s story, along with the work he is doing, is definitely worth hearing. Get ready to be inspired!
A True Spirit of Caring
Zorg & Natuur translates to ‘Care and Nature,’ two concepts that are the foundations of Dirk’s life’s work. Dirk is co-owner of the Zorg & Natuur farm and the natural meat shop, where they sell organic meats as well as fresh-baked pies and other pastries. The farm covers 17,000 acres where beautiful Scottish Highlanders, Black Angus, and Limousin cattle graze in the open.
The nature reserves where the animals roam freely are absolutely beautiful with green pasture, trees, and wildflowers everywhere you look.
Not only is Zorg & Natuur a place where the animals are well cared for and able to roam free, but the company also does its part to support the community.
Zorg & Natuur has partnered with the Phusis Foundation to provide young adults who otherwise may be forgotten or left outside of society with meaningful work and a safe, nurturing environment. You see, this farm isn’t just about the animals and the end products. It’s about caring for all of nature, which means supporting the human side too.
Through the farm’s partnership with the Phusis Foundation, Dirk and Zorg & Natuur provide jobs for those with an intellectual disability and behavioral problems. These are the people who otherwise would struggle to earn a living and contribute to society. They go out into the field and care for the animals, maintain the grounds, and learn new skills. They also are involved in deliveries and processing orders. The work is fulfilling and the atmosphere is positive — it’s a recipe for hope and positive change. By offering them a way to be of value, they have the opportunity to have a good life and are less at risk of falling through the cracks of society.
Dirk and Nature & Care Farms
My daughter and I recently traveled to Friesland to visit Dirk’s organic farm and talk with him. Dirk grew up in the oldest village in The Netherlands, Wadenoijen, as one of 11 siblings. With such a large family, Dirk developed a strong work ethic. By age 14, he was working as a road worker and going to school in Utrecht one day a week for Road and Hydraulic Engineering. In the evening, he’d work in the family gardens and orchards, and behind the bar at a local café.
He also learned about living circular long before anyone coined the term. With the right perspective and practices, there is always enough — a large garden, when everyone is preserving, juicing, drying, and freezing the fruits and vegetables, a chicken that guarantees endless fresh eggs, and small livestock, where every part is utilized, all of this is plenty to feed many mouths.
In his twenties, Dirk entered the healthcare sector and found his calling in social pedagogical work. He worked for years in a management position and was involved in a variety of specialties including neuro-linguistic programming and supervision and intervention. During this time he met the love of his life, Aaffiena.
Today, they have three children and live together in a large farmhouse in Oosterwolde, where they also house five residents who needed both outpatient care and meaningful work. Dirk and Aaffiena spend their days taking care of the nature reserve and the animals and working with their team.
Dirk owns Zorg & Natuur VOF along with his partner, Bernie de Weerd. Together, the duo is the driving force behind Care and Nature farms and the online natural meat company, which sells organic grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, wild game meats, and more — including high-quality organic beef bones for BABS!
Meeting the Cows
Walking around on the farm was an experience I’ll never forget. Dirk drove us by car to the fields where the animals are often grazing — and right when we stepped out, we saw a herd of beautiful Black Angus cattle! They were happily wandering around the trees and deep in the fields, but as soon as we called them, they came walking over.
These animals are majestic in person, and so curious and social! For my daughter and me, it was truly special to walk together amidst the friendly herd, hiking through the reserves and speaking with Dirk.
After having this time, we appreciate the work of these dedicated farmers even more. We are also more inspired to continue with our mission of bringing you nourishing foods and sharing the benefits of healthy, natural eating, not just for our own well-being, but for society and the environment as well.
Here’s is a look at our conversation with Dirk.
Our Interview with Dirk
Paulina: What kind of cows live on the nature reserves?
Dirk: We have Black Angus, Limousin, and Scottish Highlanders. They are beautiful pure breeds, a primeval race, not some kind of cross or genetic manipulation of animals. We have 250 cows. The herds live in different regions of the reserve, and there are only as many cows in one herd as any given region can handle.
Paulina: Why do you need cows in the nature reserve?
Dirk: Cows are the natural solution for stopping trees from growing everywhere so that life under the trees can live and develop. Otherwise, bees, other insects, and birds would die. If there were no more big animals and people on this planet, probably the trees would take over the whole planet.
Paulina: Do the cows live outside the entire year?
Dirk: It depends on the region in which they live and the weather during each season. We have a problem with a dry summer and wet winter. When there is too much rain, the water stays on the ground, and then the cows can develop inflammation between the hooves. If this happens, in one week, they’ll be dead. So, the choice is to let my cow die or to put them in the stable during the wet periods. Last year the wet season was from December to March.
In this big nature reserve, we also have places with slopes, lots of bushes, and trees. Here, the cows are grazing outside the whole year because water doesn’t stay on the ground for a long time and the animals can easily find dry places.
Paulina: Do you give any medications or antibiotics to the animals when they are ill?
Dirk: The only thing we do is give fluid for tick bites, the same thing you probably give to your dogs. Because of global warming, we have more and more problems with ticks, and tick bites can be dangerous for the cow.
We try to keep the meat and bone marrow very clean. Sometimes we choose to let the cow die instead of using antibiotics. Our animals are hormone- and antibiotic-free.
Our cows live on the reserve and choose what they want to eat. When a cow has a problem, she will find what is good for her. She will eat the herbs, flowers, grass, etc.
Paulina: How do you decide which cow is ready to be slaughtered?
Dirk: None of the cows walking around here will be slaughtered. This one here is 18 or 19 years old and has a calf. We prefer to slaughter a bull or cow that does not want to breed. A bull will live inside the herd for two or three years and then he goes to the slaughter, there is no more use for him. More bulls are born than cows, so we prefer to slaughter a bull when there is no more use for them.
We need to slaughter 100 cattle a year. To do that, we need to have 500 animals — we have 250 and our partner, The Drentse Landchap Foundation, which manages a number of nature reserves in Drenthe, also has 250 cattle. We never slaughter a calf.
Paulina: How do you feel about your work?
Dirk: I was raised according to the Bible, similar to the Amish in America. It doesn’t matter how you feel and what your health condition is. You always take care of others first. And then it is you. This is a little bit confusing because in the modern healthcare sector, you learn that first, you need to take care of yourself so you can take care of others. This is in conflict with my home upbringing. The way I grew up, it doesn’t matter even if you are very ill, you still think about others. So doing this feels natural for me.
Paulina: What drives you to do what you do?
Dirk: Well, I never ask myself if I do something for good or not. I just do what I feel is right and don’t think a lot about it. If you think a lot about something, you can get into conflict with yourself.
I sleep in my own bed 360 days of the year. Sometimes I go on a holiday for a week with my wife and children, then Bernie is here at the farmhouse, taking care of the boys.
We have five boys with an intellectual disability and behavioral problems living with us. We’re responsible for them seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Five challenging boys, who are not my children, this is not easy. Sometimes they are even aggressive. Because even with a very small problem, they can lose touch with themselves and we can have a very difficult day. But tomorrow is always a new day and a new chance.
You must have a lot of patience and work hard around them so that they can see a little bit of light in life and a hope for some future. Those boys who live with me have few opportunities in normal society, but if you engage them actively in work, they feel useful and happy.
What I have noticed is that the food plays a huge role in their behavior. Eating good, clean food helps to control the ADHD (a mental health disorder than can cause an above-normal level of hyperactive and impulsive behavior) of those boys. Also, it is very important to have a healthy day and night rhythm, going to bed at the same time, waking up at the same time, drinking water, going to the toilet, all at the same time. No matter how you feel, you go for a run or exercise, eat breakfast, and start to work.
Those boys are very busy in their heads. Mentally, they are so far away from their physical body that they sometimes lose touch — they can’t even recognize that they need to go and use the toilet, for example. So, first they need to learn who they are as a person through their body, and how they can use their body to their own advantage to function better in life. They can’t use their brain in the same way we use it, it’s not going to happen, so I teach them how to use the body instead of the mind.
The boy who you saw, I am his last chance. After me, all he has left is something like a closed institution, which isn’t good. Now he has been with us for one year, he’s already 60 percent better at his school, he is social, hardworking, and now there is a good chance that in three to four years he will be able to join the Army Academy and become a soldier.
That is his dream. He has a future, and I believe in him. If he wants to be in the Army, he will be in the Army. And this, I guess, is why I am doing what I am doing.
Paulina: What would you like to see when it comes to our approach to food, in the future?
Dirk: I hope that The Netherlands will go for more local food, so no weird chicken from the Ukraine or Canada, no hormone beef from the USA, while we have beautiful cows and healthy chicken right here. I hope that finally, people will see the difference between small country farms, where there is a big respect for animals, nature, and people, and big city farms.
I also want clean, organic meat and vegetables to become an affordable part of the diet for everyone.
At Babs Nourishing Food Company, we believe food means much more than something that satisfies our hunger. It is love, passion, and care from the first seed that is planted in the ground through all the steps that bring food to our tables. It is a hope for a better future for all of us.
Small companies like Zorg & Natuur VOF are making positive changes in the food industry and in society. We are so happy to work with these wonderful people and proud we can provide you with a jar of bone broth that offers more than flavor and nourishment. By buying our bone broth, or other local produce, you are supporting people in need, nature, animals, the farmers, and their families. And, of course, your health.
We are all connected and all dependent on one another. This is also why we know, even if a positive change seems small, when we work together, the change achieves something never-ending.
More info about Zorg & Natuur; website; https://zorgnatuur.nl
INDUSTRIAL VS. ORGANIC; THE USE OF ANTIBIOTICS IN ANIMALS
This is one of the greatest challenges a lot of us face in clean, whole eating. You can walk into almost any grocer today and opt for the organic and locally grown fruit and veggies, organic legumes, nuts, and seeds, and other plant-based foods. You know then, your food is pesticide-free, has been grown without chemical fertilizers and you could say, was produced humanely as far as plant life is concerned.
When it comes to your animal-based proteins, however, things become more complex. This is because there are more factors that plug into the equation to yield the perfect meat, eggs or dairy protein sources. And, a lot of flexibility and varied interpretations when we look at farming terms.
What is collagen and why is it so good for me?
Collagen is a protein that’s found throughout our bodies, and we need it to keep our bones, teeth, and joints strong. It’s found in cartilage, ligaments, even our hair. When your body has plenty of collagen, you’re more likely to have beautiful-looking hair, skin, and nails. It’s also a key protein for digestive health, supporting the stomach, esophagus, and the small and large intestines.