Pioneering in the Peel, Holland. Very natural! | translated from

Jan Ottens lives at ’t Oventje where he has built his own estate. His mission is to offer an alternative for farmers who are increasingly finding themselves in trouble due to various circumstances. He does this in the ambitious Peel Nature Villages project. Jan took the initiative for this and works closely with former mayor Pierre Bos van Boekel and Annie Martens from Zeeland. Pioneering, as the Peel was once formed naturally.

Peel Nature Villages aims for farmers to create new nature on part of their land. They could then build tiny houses in the wooded parts or on the property itself, which they rent out. The rent compensates for the loss of income. Jan wants to simultaneously tackle other problems such as restoration of biodiversity integrated with small-scale housing. Although he is not directly involved in tackling the housing shortage, the housing problem is included in the project. In addition to issues such as carbon capture, nitrogen issues and water retention and improvement.

His own estate is a lush set of trees, shrubs, hedgerows and herb-rich grassland with cows. Jan Ottens is enormously inspired by the Indians and how they live in harmony with nature. So much has changed in one generation, as if you come from another planet. “Our ancestors were extremely sustainable. Nothing was thrown away, everything was reused. Since then, plastic has been introduced and we are familiar with the phenomenon of waste and garbage dumps. In that sense, no generation is as wasteful as ours,” says Jan. “We talk about sustainability even though we are not.”

Jan sees the farmer as a steward of the land and certainly not as a manufacturer. Farmers are often blamed, while the regulations they have to deal with are designed for large-scale problems that not all farmers necessarily want. But farmers without a revenue model have no chance and so he, together with Annie Martens and Pierre Bos, came up with the initiative for Peel Nature Villages.

As a teacher, Jan worked at the agricultural school and saw it all change up close. There Jan learned from the pioneers to pass this on. Now he is pioneering himself. Significant steps are currently being taken, for example, they are in discussions with five municipalities in Peel, interested farmers, potential residents and the province for a pilot. Jan and partners are busy realizing a first demo location in Zeeland in early 2022.