A new crop of organic vegetables from De Lochting is now on sale
West Flanders has gained an additional 20 hectares of organic agricultural land. Social farming enterprise De Lochting has extended its organic fields by converting a large area; a process that has taken two years. De Lochting was able to rely on our support to tide it over this challenging financial period. Now the transition is complete and the first full organic crop from this field will be available in our shops from July. This is just the latest fruitful result in a collaboration that dates back 15 years already. We choose to support the non-profit De Lochting enterprise because it combines organic cultivation with social employment.
De Lochting is a non-profit enterprise which focuses on social issues. "We help people who cannot access the ordinary job market", says Dirk Lammertyn, managing director at De Lochting. Eighteen years ago, the non-profit enterprise started with a modest vegetable garden (known locally as a 'lochting') in Roeselare, Belgium. Since then, the garden has grown into 30 hectares of organic agricultural land and De Lochting now has 150 employees; mainly people with no qualifications or with a disability. Not everyone works on the organic fields; some people put together fruit and vegetable packages, others help to maintain the green spaces. "Our ultimate dream is to stream a number of people through to the regular job market."
And Colruyt Group is pleased to play its part in turning that vision into reality. "We are working together to see how we can make that dream come true", says Rony Neufkens, head buyer of fruit and vegetables. "Because De Lochting is more than just a supplier to us; we are partners through thick and thin, and we help each other."
"Demand for organic products is continuing to grow; not just at Bio-Planet, but at Colruyt and Okay as well", says Rony. "Our preference is for home-grown organic vegetables, even if that isn't always clear. Most organic farms in Belgium are on a small scale, so they cannot always meet this demand", explains Rony. "We have been working with De Lochting – the organic growers and social enterprise in Roeselare – for more than 15 years now, from the opening of the first Bio-Planet in Kortrijk. When they decided to expand their organic fields in 2016 and asked for our help, we immediately responded with enthusiasm."
From fallow to organic
Soil that has previously been cultivated 'normally' has to be left to lie fallow for a year first. "We can then start to cultivate vegetables using organic principles, and these vegetables are labelled as being 'in transition'", adds Dirk. "We have to wait two or three years, until the soil is completely 'pure', before we can sell them as organic vegetables. During that transition period, we have a lot of costs and very little income. To make things even worse, we normally sell very few vegetables that are in transition. That is why the support from Colruyt Group is so important to us."
Colruyt Group helped De Lochting in that challenging financial period, selling vegetables including kohlrabi, flat leaf parsley and radishes in transition. These almost organic vegetables will soon be disappearing from our shops, because the fields at De Lochting are now fully organic. The organic vegetables will be on sale from July. "This is a win-win situation", according to Rony. "Not only are we supporting our partner, we are also ensuring we have a high-quality range of Belgian organic vegetables."
With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.