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Farming Insider: Heidi and Nic Verschelde

About the Verschelde family

Family-run farm where three generations work together.

The Verschelde family are the fourth generation to work their Rapenburg farm.

Farmers Heidi and Nic live on the farm in East Flanders, Belgium, together with Nic’s father and their three children. Alongside Louise and Floor, tractor-mad nine-year-old Viktor already helps actively with the daily work.

Farm facts

Location: Rapenburg, Province of East Flanders, Belgium

Crops cultivated: Corn

Special features: The livestock kept on the farm are dairy cows, suckler cows, and broiler hens. Mother Heidi opens the farm to children ages three to 12 and teaches them about dairy farming as part of the “Melk4Kids” program. With resident bats, birds of prey, a bee hotel, a frog pool, and an orchard, Rapenburg farm goes beyond livestock farming to teach young visitors about the diversity of a healthy ecosystem.

Of course, there are rules and things you have to do effectively. But there is also a freedom you have on a farm: the freedom to be out in nature every day
Heidi Verschelde, Belgium

Question time

Heidi, when we were walking around the farm earlier, we passed by a kind of mini-farm. What’s that all about?

Heidi: Oh, our youngest son Viktor is the best person to explain that.
Viktor: I’ve got a sandbox and my own garden. I’ve turned both of them into my own farm with all these tractors. I help mom and dad a lot; sometimes I work on the land or I do things in my garden. I really like it.

What is it about farming that you like so much?

Viktor: I want to be a farmer one day because then I can be out in the fresh air a lot. Otherwise, you sit inside all day, and I don’t really like doing that.

One of many vehicles from Viktor's tractor fleet

One of many vehicles from Viktor's tractor fleet

Nic Verschelde

Nic Verschelde

Heidi and Nic, it sounds like the next generation of Verscheldes is already waiting in the wings.

Nic: Yes, we would like our children to take over the business with complete passion and love, just as Heidi and I took it over from my father. We see that now with Viktor as well. Everything we have done in the fields or on the farm he imitates in the garden. That’s the beauty of it: When he sees something, he recreates it entirely himself.
Heidi: As far as the next generation is concerned, our children are always free to do whatever they want later on. But I think that in our case, the youngest ones are really interested in agriculture and especially the mechanical part, the tractors and things like that.

Aside from playful approaches such as the tractors, what other aspects can be introduced to the youngest generation today to familiarize them with agriculture?

Heidi: I can’t imagine being sat at a desk all day or doing anything else, and I think that’s an aspect we can also make clear to the youngest generation. Of course, there are effectively rules and things you have to do. But there is also a freedom you have on a farm: the freedom to be out in nature every day. At the same time, the next generation is the one facing a huge number of challenges in agriculture. Crops need to become more resistant to droughts and wet years, and the soil needs to be kept fertile. I think the next generation is showing a keen sense for the importance of nature.

Nic: I also think it’s important to pass on to the children that we take care of nature. We take something from nature and give something back in return. Heidi is especially good at that.

Heidi, you bring farming and society together. What specifically are you doing in this regard?

Heidi: I do that mainly by making a lot of school visits, but also by opening up the farm a little to the outside world. We need to narrow the current gap between citizens and farmers. I think it’s very important that we do it now.

Cows are the big stars at the "Melk4Kids" program

Cows are the big stars at the "Melk4Kids" program

Bringing citizens and farmers back around a table together is an important building block in the agricultural sector. But fostering an understanding of the achievements and challenges within the different generations on a farm is also a piece of the puzzle, and you’re already doing a great job of this in Rapenburg.

Heidi: I find it hugely interesting to see how grandpa works with Viktor, the youngest generation. Grandpa still helps a lot on the farm, and he is sometimes in the milking pit earlier in the morning than I am. I think it’s in his blood. He helped build the farm, and he still has so much passion for farming within him.

Nic: When I see that, I hope that we will still be able to help our children later on, too.

Paving the way. For a fruitful tomorrow.

Life on the farm is often characterized by family cohesion and traditions that have grown over decades. Around the world, many generations live and work on farms under one roof, and at some point the question of farm succession arises. Our farmer portraits deal with this generational change that many farmers face. Whether young or old, we visited farmers on their farms and let them tell us about their stories, their challenges and their hopes.


Cole Vis, USA

“My wish for the future of the family farm is that it will still be run well in the fifth, sixth, and seventh generation.”


Arco Van Triest, Netherlands

“This farm has been running since 1900, and now my children are here.“


Adem Biçici, Turkey

“When I go out into the fields with my grandson, I see myself reflected in his curiosity.“


Brian Ryberg, USA

“I think the feeling of being part of something greater has always been important to me.“


Šandor Sabo junior, Croatia

“Whatever problems we are facing, we solve them together. For me, family is all about cohesion.“


Atila Sabo, Croatia

“Every morning, my brother and I agree what we want to do during the day, what our duties are. So we share the work and have passed on this structure to our children in the same way.“


Carla, Fábio and José Rossato, Brazil

“I never had any doubts; I never wanted to be anything but a farmer.”


Dimitar Vukudinov, Bulgaria

”Working with your own father means that you always have a wiser man with you to support you and look up to.”


Rodolfo Cura, Argentina

“The farm is everything to me. Working in agriculture is the greatest way to do what I love. For me, the farm means freedom.”


Heidi Verschelde, Belgium

"I think the next generation is showing a keen sense for the importance of nature."


Ievhenii Bondarchuk, Ukraine

"If you want to be a farmer, you can’t learn that in an institute. It’s something you have to be born with."


Luigi Torri, Italy

“I hope my sons will pass on the love and respect for the earth and all the values I taught them.”


Paweł Strzemiecki, Poland

“This love of farming, of the farming tradition, goes back generations in our family.”


Emma F., UK

“It would be great if one day the sixth or seventh generation of our family runs the farm.“


Peter Carlisle, UK

“Teamwork is the most important thing on our farm. Everyone does a little bit of everything. If we weren't a team, our business wouldn't be as successful as it is today.“


Henning & Arne Beecken, Germany

“The feeling of wanting to continue the work on the farm has grown day by day since childhood.“


Emanuele Bortoli, Italy

“Reliability and respect form the foundation for how we deal with one another. These are values I`ve always held in high esteem.“


Francis Bapst, Switzerland

“For me, the most important values are respect for nature, understanding our consumers and food production.”


Toni & Daniel Peterhans, Switzerland

”Spirit and passion are what leads to success, whether it's in farming or on the football pitch.”


Riccardo Casarotto, Italy

”Independence is a dream that we should all cultivate and pursue. Dreams are there to come true and to help you progress.”


Stephan Jansen, Belgium

”I look forward to waking up every day and being able to work with nature.”


Gizem Anar, Turkey

”People should love what they do, and I love farming. I enjoy looking after animals, plants and nature and try to feel connected to them!.”


Adrian Knuchel, Switzerland

”For me, team spirit means being able to live and work together. It means ongoing exchange, taking each other, mutual ideas and suggestions seriously.”


Gürkan Ilhan, Turkey

”People who work in agriculture, cultivating crops, rearing livestock and working on the land, accumulate positive memories day after day.”


René Vermue, Netherlands

”Team spirit and reliability are hugely important in both my personal life and my working life – be it with colleagues, employees, or in dealings with other farmers.”


Henrick Dieckmann, Germany

”For me, it´s important to be sustainable and healthy in what we produce.”

Stephan Krings
Stephan Krings
Global Manager
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