High-valued horticultural produce for selling to restaurants & on farmer’s markets. Cultivated through ecological intensification, i.e using only few varieties which enable growth in between leaves & grow fast.
Molenkouter is an innovative micro-farm and a short value-chain project growing organic vegetables in the former Vinderhoute windmill at the outskirts of Ghent (Belgium).
How everything started
In 2013, Gert began taking back the family’s tradition and revived the vegetable farm from his grandfather, which had been abandoned 20 years ago. Now Molenkouter is an innovative micro-farm and a short value-chain project growing organic vegetables in the former Vinderhoute windmill in the outskirts of Ghent (Belgium).
For centuries, farmers from the region of Ghent have supplied the city demand for fresh vegetables. Somewhere along the way, urban societies lost that direct link to food. As consumers started preferring tomatoes from Spain, asparagus from Peru, green beans from Kenya, rather than from local producers, farmers struggled to make a living of agriculture.
As a result, rural areas around Ghent saw its family farms transform into industrial heated houses for flower production. However, heating this houses was neither sustainable nor economically viable. Thus, flower production started displacing into tropical countries and many greenhouses became abandoned.
Gert found in these abandoned greenhouses the perfect structures for using them for passive indoor farming. He found the place online and instead of being discouraged about the small space as most did, he saw in these fabulous structures the perfect opportunity for growing organic vegetables year round! For Gert, growing a vegetable garden started as a hobby. He trusted all the knowledge he had on intensive farming, he knew that commercial farming was possible in such a small scale and dared to jump into it.
»My spatial limitations made me think of really innovative solutions for optimizing the use of this small plot. If you go small as possible, you can really optimize for an efficient use of the space. And this is way more profitable in every sense of the word, much more efficient than a large farm«
How do they contribute to a better climate?
Extra harvest on a small surface
Gerd experiments with intercropping methods and different widths between plants. While the leaves of cabagges remain small, he can plant other small things in between, and everything grows much faster!
Optimizing the use of space
With only half a hactare available, Gert must innovate in his farm layout. Composting along greenhouse edges and hanguing tables that he can slide from side to side save him a few meters…In the mill, every inch counts!
Harvesting while leaving roots in the soil
Conventional methods usually extract root system from the soil during harvest. By keeping the root system intact under a layer of compost, he can start planting straight after harvesting
What else is going on on the farm?
Reviving the family tradition
In the outskirts of Ghent, brothers Gert and Tom took back their family’s legacy – the Vinderhoute windmill, and revived the vegetable farm from their grandfather.
Learning bio-intensive farming via YouTube
Gert is a self-taught farming enthusiast and loves experimenting on his farm. By using mainly youtube videos and books, he learns and improves his intensification methods.
The microclimate inside the greenhouse allows growing tropical and mediterranean crops all year round, such as tobacco. Permanent vegetation in greenhouse and biodiversity create a less artificial growing environment, which invites beneficial insects and keeps diseases away.