Dutch student visits Makwa farm

Makwa area farmer Ed Schafer and Erwin van der Velden, a Dutch native and farmhand, check the knives on the combine Sept. 2. Although rain earlier in the day may have stopped field work, it gave Schafer and his crew an opportunity to make repairs.

By Rhonda Cooper

Erwin van der Velden, a Holland native has returned to Ed and Marielle Schafer’s Makwa farm for his second Saskatchewan harvest.

“The first time I came was two years ago, from May to November,” said van der Velden. The 22-year-old hails from Nederwetten, Holland, a small town with a population of 800.

Following three years of mechanic’s training, van der Velden took advantage of the opportunity to travel to a foreign country to work in his chosen field.

“I like it here because there are not as many people. I really like the big farm,” he said. “Holland is more populated and 40 acres is considered a big farm there and most of them are dairy farms. There are some grain farms but not from where I am from.”

As a student back in Holland, van der Velden worked his neighbour’s farm so decided to experience what farming in Canada was like. Although he has a couple of uncles who farm, his immediate family does not.

“My dad drives a semi, my mom delivers mail, my older brother is a car mechanic and my younger brother is in school,” he said.

As is the practice with all Dutch trainees, van der Velden lives with the Schaefer family.

“He is exceptionally good,” smiled Marielle. “We really like him and it is hard to find seasonal workers. But that doesn’t always work out for the fall because they return to school.”

Ed said they have found the Dutch to be good workers with good work ethics. “We try to bring them over in the spring for seeding.”

When trainees arrive, they are put to work in all aspects of the farm.

“Everything from cows to combining,” said Ed. “It works really well for us. We’ve had four trainees. Our first was good, Erwin was our second and he was even better and we just kept getting them.”

Van der Velden arrived Aug. 15 and will leave Nov. 15. His three months here coincide with those of his girlfriend who is spending the same period in Indonesia, travelling and gathering information so she can promote the country as a travel destination.

“I would recommend this experience to others,” said van der Velden. “If you go on a holiday, all you see is what the tourists see. But here you get to experience it. You get to see everything. This was a good time to come. There was no one, except my mom, to stay home for. You have to do this while you’re young.”

He will return home for a couple of weeks before heading to Australia where he and his girlfriend will spend a month touring the country with plans to spend New Year’s Eve in Sydney.

After the holiday, it will be back to Holland and school. “I’m going back to get my foreman’s training (Canada’s journeyman level). I start the second week of January and hope to finish the two-year course in a year and a half,” he said.


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