Winterswijk farmers perpetual victims of elites
In 1983 Winterswijk was startled by hard actions of farmers against plans to protect the beautiful “landscape of wings” that already enticed many people from the ring city of Holland to this region. The roots of this conflict date back to the first decades of the 20th century when the local elite of semi-feudal landowners successfully prevented adverse effects to the old wooded landscape – and at the same time sabotaged the modernization of the farming industry of their tenants. Afterwards the role of this elite was taken over by nature conservationists and the government, and again it looked like the Winterwijk farmers missed the boat.
In 1983 Winterwijk could be glad about a short-lived but intense interest from the national media. Someone from the ring city of Holland – from which the Achterhoek most of the time evokes associations of an oasis occupied with kind-hearted country men and is a nice place to be for hastened types from the west – was confronted with violent protesting farmers. Molestation, uncontrolled outbreaks of fury, and threats of violence and arson were entries in the commentaries by which many a journalist from behind the river IJssel turned homeward. The local council of Winterswijk was the target of the farmers resistence. It looked like the council would accept a plan in which the Winterswijk countryside (more than 13,000 hectares) from then on should be known as “Test area National Landscape”, with all the consequences to farming that many farmers feared – adapted farming business, management agreements, slowing down of the preparations for the legal re-division and re-allotment of land. All of these things would occur in order to conserve the beautiful landscape.
The local council yielded to the actions of the farmers which were labeled as fascist by a deputy of the County Council and adjourned its decision. The pressure was off for a moment and the issue again disappeared from the national news. Meanwhile, in Winterswijk advocates and opponents were diametrically opposed to each other. (lit. “stand in hedgehog position against each other”). Judicial investigation of threats towards members of the local council of Winterswijk, consternation about the unexpected suspension of the same investigation and the possibility – suggested from the side of the County Council of the province of Gelderland – to impose unilateral zoning plans with severe restrictions for farming only strengthened the animosity.
The situation recalls someone of the seventies when the first act of the landscape drama was played. The then minister of Culture, Recreation and Social Welfare Wim Meijer of the Labour party, and the ex-minister of Agriculture of the Christian Democratic Party Van der Stee both came to explain the “Winterswijk Landscape Park” as it was called in those days. They were almost molested by furious agrarians. For the first time the Winterswijk landscape problems caught the national front pages. Since that time this question remained smouldering until it came to a new outburst in 1983. An acceptable solution for all parties involved was hampered by many other meanings that this landscape battle had become for the farmers: it is a battle against “The Hague”; it represents antipathy between native inhabitants; newcomers now play a part; it played left wingers against right wingers and farmers against citizens; and, finally, the old farmers’ adagium “being one’s own boss at one’s own yard” was at stake. In addition, the advocates of the landscape plans readily admitted that this proposal required better information about and presentation of the plans by the state, province and municipality. Some agrarian-sociological and historical appreciation of the Winterswijk countryside is of importance in this matter – until now not the strongest point of the plan makers. This perspective assumes a certain distance from the turmoil and certainly better phrasing of the issues than had thus far been put forth.
The reasoning used by the governmental and nature conservation organizations for designating the Winterswijk countryside as Test Area National Landscape, roughly speaking, is as follows: Winterswijk has a beautiful old man-made landscape which is, however, affected in ever increasing speed by modern agriculture. A series of examples are given that show that adverse effects and enumeration can definitely put a sad atmosphere over the situation because it strongly suggests that, in fact, there is no longer a beautiful landscape at all! To shift the tide a bit toward the better, an order pointing to “National Landscape” is necessary. Unfortunately, through this method, the agrarian interests are second-rated. This argumentation is understandable from the point of view of conservation of nature and landscape, but is an obstacle when asking the historically interesting question “What is the reason that the Winterswijk countryside can sustain a valuable landscape but that the farmers’ interests become minor to this situation.
Why is it Winterswijk of all places that landscape and agriculture come into conflict with each other where as at other places in the Netherlands – the last but some enclaves – the landscape almost quietly got the worst of it? What apart from modern development did the Winterswijk countryside go through? Forgotten questions form the red thread of this article.
In the search for an answer, the investigator quickly comes across a special aspect in Winterswijk’s recent countryside history. The troubles of 1983 turn out to fit in a series of passive and active protest manifestations of the Winterswijk farmers. Protest of farmers in Winterswijk in the second half of the twentieth century is a regularly returning phenome-non, it seems.
Farmers Party and National-Socialist Movement
In the sixties and seventies the radical right-wing Farmers Party had a relative large following among Winterswijk farmers. In this way this party got 8.2 percent (1212 votes absolute) at the 1967 elections, while in the adjacent Aalten only 4.7 percent of the voters voted for the Farmers Party. Categorized according to village and countryside then one comes out at an ever higher percentage for the countryside – most of the votes came from farmers who only formed one-fifth of the total population. The considerable number of followers of the Farmers’ party perhaps had to do not with economical problems but rather with the excitement about the so-called “brooks plan” in the fifties and sixties. This plan provided for canalization, but also for conservation of certain parts of the extended Winterswijk brooks system, which, of course, created similar agitation among the farmers as did the “landscape park” in 1983.
The thirties belong without any doubt to the most turbulent in the history of Winterswijk. Unrest of the countryside manifested itself first in a large number of followers for the radical farmers protest movement “Agriculture and Society” and – in a later phase – in an exceptional popularity of the National-Socialist Movement among the farming population.
In the beginning of 1933, Winterswijk’s section of “Agriculture and Society” consisted of 235 members, at the end of 1933 the total was already 300. About 25 percent of the rural population then was a member of this alliance. The alliance strived for the economical and cultural rise of the small farmer oppressed by crisis and big business, but got more and more into fascist – read NSM – influence as successes failed to occur. The Winterswijk section therefore was, outside the province of Drenthe, far and away the biggest supporter of the alliances. (The whole province of Gelderland consisted at the end of 1933 of only 616 mombers). The NSM could even be glad about a still larger interest. At the Provincial States elections of 1935 this party gained in the countryside more than 30 percent of the total votes (total Winterswijk: 20.3 percent, total Holland: 7.94 percent). Analysis of this emerging farmers’ protest, separately and together, show us – not very surprisingly – that they would not convert to a single cause. Cultural and social factors turn out to be closely interwoven with local circumstances and are a product of the age. In all troubles, however, tangible material-economic backgrounds form an important constant. The Winterswijk farmers periodically feel threate-ned in its existence and they clearly show this as farmers.
What in this region is so problematical in practising the oldest profession in the world but one? An agricultural excursion through the little backyard of Gelderland may help with this question.
In 1932 the agricultural engineer De Hoogh from the University of Wageningen published a thesis about reclamations of sandy soils in which he also gives a brief summary of the region around Winterswijk. The Winterswijk countryside in the first decades of the twentieth century turns up to be overpopulated and characterized – even for that time – by small farms. In absolute terms the population of the countryside increased from 5,477 persons in 1859, via 6,828 in 1910, to almost 8,000 in 1921. The agrarian labour force in 1910 consisted of 3,250 persons; in 1920 that number had increased to more than 4,390 persons. It is no wonder that the number of farms grew explosively: from 840 in 1859 to approximately 1,400 around the beginning of the 20th century. The average surface area in Winterswijk dominating lease farms – almost two-third of all farms were leased – was small in keeping with this population number: In 1924 4.73 hectares. The own-inherited farms on average were a little larger.
How much pressure the population exerted was illustrated by a newspaper advertisement in the Nieuwe Winterswijkse Courant of 1917 in which the Section Winterswijk of the Gelderland-Overijssel Society of Agriculture exhorted sons of farmers to report for reclamation farms in the provinces Brabant and Drenthe in order to avoid the harrowing shortage of land. At other sandy soil places, fertilizer, new markets, and breeding techniques made large-scale reclamations both possible and profitable. But this happened in Winterswijk only in an unobtrusive small-scale way, although the municipalty had considerable patches of waste-land. In 1828 the surface soil of heather and non-cultivated land measured 7,649 hectares. Around 1920 Winterswijk still had 5,000 hectares of waste-land on a total of more than 13,000 hectares. Besides that the difference of more than 2,500 hectares was only partially converted into cultivated land considering the increase of the wooded area) (1828: 1,051 ha; 1910: 2,129 ha).
In the course of the twenties and thirties little changed for the small-scaled infrastructure of the Winterswijk agricultural community as indicated by the Agricultural count of 1930. More than 32 percent of the farms was smaller than 5 hectares, 82 percent smaller than 10 hectares, 17 percent was between 10 and 20 hectares and only 3 percent was larger than 20 hectares. When after the relatively fat twenties there followed the crisis and misery of the thirties, the endurance of the Winterswijk crofters is scanty. In the meantime they indeed are completely taken into impersonal market connections. The weak economical position, the demagogy of an astute farmer’s leader, and some issues reducing the world crisis to local proportions – therein lies the foundation for rural unrest in the countryside in the thirties.
Anyone who superficially looks at agriculture in post-war Winterswijk would likely think that after 1945 the lags in agricultural development would diminish quickly. The number of farms decreased at last and the agrarian working population dropped from 2,161 to 1947, via 1,685 in 1960, to 1,282 in 1972. Consequently there was room for the remaining people to enlarge the industrial area. In 1963 the average industrial area was 9,6 hectares; about 1980 circa 12 hectares. The explosive growth of dairy cattle breeding and the “improving agriculture” (the “bio-industry”) – so characteristic for agriculture at the sandy soils after 1945 – didn’t pass by Winterswijk. Whatever comparison one may make, between 1950/1960; 1975/1978, again and again it turns out that ever more was produced by ever fewer farms.
But if one views the apparently flourishing absolute production and infrastructur figures in the light of the elimination race that agriculture especially has become since the establishment of the European Community, than another picture is formed.
Relatively low prices of agriculture, a policy already explicitely aimed to give large advantages to farms before the legendary Mansholt-plan, bring about a continuous process of increasing the distance between large and small, profitable and unprofitable, and between a fair income and concealed poverty. This scale ever again slides upwards with advantage going to the large farms.
The number of farmers that are either above or under the fatal borderline differs per area. Even a layman in the field of agriculture can read out which prosperous bungalow farms in the new polders – in the former Zuiderzee, now the province of Flevoland – have a more than average income through farming. A good agrarian infrastructure and little legal limitations provide an easy way to keep up with necessary adaptations and enlargements, and it is here that the leaders in the agrarian process of scale enlargement can be found. But also on the “old land” farms, rationalization of the landscape which started well before the second World War, and had its final days in the re-allotment of lands during the sixties and seventies, made for a suitable environment for an advanced agriculture. The most success-ful stories are the sandy soils of the province of Brabant circa 1900, but still it was a poor agricultural area. Nowadays one comes across the most modern hog farms of Europe while at the same time dairy cattle breeding reaches a productivity which overshadows the pastures areas of the provinces of Holland and Friesland.
This result is different in Winterswijk where, judged on its own merits, considerable increases of production cannot be seen and where many farms, in spite of brave efforts of modernization, belong to the losers in the race to increase farm productivity. Some quantitative and qualitative indications.
In spite of the increased average surface of the farming soil in general, the relative small surface of the soil of individual farms remains an important obstacle for agriculture in Winterswijk. About 1960, 56 percent of the farming enterprises fell in the category of the size of 5 to 10 hectares (The Netherlands: 33 percent, sandy soils: 40 percent) while Kooy found for the same time that only 25 percent of the farms was larger than ten hectares. The decline of the number of farms since the sixties enlarged the average surface of the soil of the farms substantially, but in 1978 about 70 percent of the farms was still smaller than fifteen hectares, which meant by the standards of that time that two-thirds of the farms had hardly outgrown the phase of crofters farms. Of course surface of the soil does not mean everything: by means of the scarsely surface bound “agriculture of improving” (bio-industry) a small farm qua surface of soil nevertheless can be “large” in productivity. Data however indicate that about 1980 only eleven percent of the farms belong to the pure “enterprises of improved agriculture”. For the others the strongly surface bound cattle breeding was the main direction of production. For a dairy cattle breeding farm at the end of the seventies circa forty cows applied in force as a minimum claim for a reasonable income. In 1978 only twenty percent of the farms in the re-allotment of land area of Winterswijk West met these needs and the number of 25-cow farms in the first half of the seventies was the usual limit because of the acquisition of the milk-tank system was not obtained by more than 400 of the 645 dairy cattle breeding farms in Winterswijk. In short, many Winterswijk farms are too small for the only profitable method in Dutch dairy cattle breeding since the seventies: the milktank with adjoining berth system. An even bigger obstacle is formed by the bad re-allotment of land (average more than four lots per farm with small, irregular parcels) which by far does not meet the needs of the standard for profitable application of the system mentioned before (one or two lots per farm, sixty percent of the surface of the soil situated around the farm). Also the bad unlocking – circa fifty percent of the sandy roads impassable in wintertime, many farms situated along unhardened roads – and the bad control of water make modern dairy cattle breeding difficult.
The post war agrarian developments make it understandable that the eagerness for taking over the elderly farm is not so very strong among the younger generations – especially not at the smallest farms. And it is understandable as well that the applications for “farm finishing” in Winterswijk (by way of the Development and Reorganization Fund) for a long time were the highest in the whole of Gelderland both in number and in surface of the soil.
Economical problems, periodically discharging into farmers’ unrest, characterize the Winterswijk agriculture during the second half of the twentieth century. The region of Winterswijk was and still is in different respects a marginal agricultural area. The economical question at hand turns out to be closely interwoven with structural obstacles which were and still are inflicted at agriculture by the physical environment. Structural obstacles in the form of too small farms, shortage of cultivated land, bad re-allotment of land, drainage and opening up, always sentences the farmers of Winterswijk to the rear guard of Dutch agriculture. Why didn’t these farmers succeed in getting rid of the shackles of the landscape?
In the defense plea of the Winterswijk farmers against the landscape plans, a person could often hear: “We made the landscape as beautiful as it is.” This statement is correct as far as it refers to the fact that the Winterswijk countryside is a beautiful example of an – old – cultural landscape, shaped as it is by a harmonious combination of physical, biotic, and anthropogenous elements. However there is something to knock-down at the word “we” or “us”, and many Winterswijk farmers know this very well. This landscape, as it unfolds before the eyes of the contemporary observer, is, in the extreme, the physical result of power held by the elite and semi-feudal landowners in the Winterswijk countryside during a long period.
The history of this remarkable agrarian elite (about 20 families) – called the “Scholten” – is rather special and dates back into the Middle Ages. In the early Middle Ages the title of “Scholte” (Schulte, Schultze, Schultheisz) was used to desig-nate the rulers of large “feudal” manors in East-Gelderland and Westfalia. In a later period in the eastern Achterhoek (region Winterswijk) this name transferred to a category of serfs appointed by the regional noble and spiritual rulers to manage their estates which had increased in number – about twenty – but a bit smaller in area. This category gradually designated as Scholten or Scholten farmers succeeded in strengthening its position, especially after 1600. Acquisition of new lands and secondary activities of production (trade of grain and linen) were factors responsible for the Scholten’s power structure and influence in local society in place of the mostly absent landlord who was, as of October 1612, the Prince of Orange. This upward development was formally settled by the abolition of serfdom at the time of the Batavian Republic (1795 -1806) in which the Scholten obtained the old estates de jure as their personal properties. In the first half of the nineteenth century the Scholten reached the height of their power. During the partition of the common grounds they carried off the biggest part of the waste-lands which were commonly managed in former days. Some twenty Scholten families then owned thousands of hectares and hundreds of tenants were, bound hand and foot, figuratively speaking, to this untitled landed gentry.
After 1850 the Scholten moved toward a social and cultural isolation through several developments, such as being left out of trade activities. This isolation was a nineteenth century initiative for the “disappearance” of the Scholten in the twentieth century. Parallel to this event the rank of the Scholten developed itself from an “open” enterprising category into a parochialistic, endogene clan with a lifestyle vaguely referring to noble traditions.
Conspicuous consumption, pursuit of social status, a luxurious pattern of life, being attached to wooded property, and hunting coincided in this lifestyle with an increasing conservatism in the agrarian field. Examples of this binding power are the maintaining of feudal relations with the tenants, the little need of cleaning up the small tenant farms, the reluctance to reclamations, and the conservative reaction to the start of agrarian commercialisation. Existing patterns of the landscape were conserved and new elements of landscaping were introduced. Of the latter, increasing forestation was the most striking. Therefore the historic roots of the Winterswijk landscape ought to be sought in the second half of the nineteenth century. More striking than its origin, however, is the fact that this nineteenth century landscape has endured relatively intact compared to the commercial and political metamorphosis of the Dutch sandy soils, as well as the metamorphosis of the Dutch landscape in general.
After the Great Crisis in Agriculture
In the years after the Great Crisis in Agriculture of 1875-1890, the sand-agriculture changed from self- supplying into market-directed. Modernization and admission into national and international markets changed the sand-farmer into a modern agrarian entrepreneur. Industrialization was closely linked to this movement. Besides market extending consequences, a migration from the countryside to towns was triggered. The far-reaching social and political consequences – together with the increasing interferences by the authorities – which were caused by processes at local and regional levels have been fully described in recent anthropological and historical research.
In the countryside, modern agrarian entrepreneurs, united in cooperatives and farming unions, predominated more and more but in addition a swing of power took place. The countryside lost power to the centres of urban growth where labourers, shopkeepers, tradesmen, retailers or industrialists claimed an ever more prominent position. The classic notables of the countryside – vicar, reverend, teacher or public notary – were the “losers” for the long-term, noticing their traditional influence crumble off. For places of large scale land owning the same change was in force for the noble or semi-noble “seigneurs”. (In the Netherlands their position for that matter had been relatively weak already and also subject to erosion much longer.) Country estates were sold or partitioned. Tenants got almost full authority to modernize the farms as a result of a more commercial and modern management by the new “lords”, and later, as a result of legal protec-tion. The former “many stringed” relationship to the lord snapped and became instead a straightfor-ward, commercial relationship between tenant and landowner. Parallel to these developments, here as well as at other sandy soil locations, scale enlargement, reclamations, and “rationalization” of the natural environment took place.
The metamorphosis of the sandy soils between about 1890 – 1930 occupied social-economic, political, environmental, and landscape concerns and was brought about late and incompletely at the Winterswijk country side. The most important reason for this fact was that the Winterswijk landed gentry, the Scholten, even in the times of big changes, persis-ted in a conservative activity toward farming. As far as the Scholten anticipated the new times, that happened without loss of the archaic structure of production, in which services of labour, lease “in natura”, little mechanization, emotional bonds with the ancestrial ground, high appreciation of wooded property, and symbolic marks of honour were rigorously maintained. In the long term this anachronistic way of produc-tion ushered in the actual economic downfall of the Scholten; a fall that already unmistakably announced itself before the Second World War. However for this history, the fact that at short term the Scholten put a claim on the possibilities of modernization for local farmers. The Scholten were able to do this because they still held the power based on the property of land. With a sense of understatement an observer about 1930 established: “The small tenant farms of the “under occupants” already look dilapidated and paintless”.
That the Scholten reacted in the way they did is an exceptional example of “group destruc-tion”. An explanation for this behaviour is not to come off here. Only mentioned here is the already quoted isolation that made it possible for an eccentric style of living to maintain itself for a long time. This isolation in the end strengthened itself because of the ever increasing endogamy and the slightly arising gap between the “traditional” countryside and the “modern” village. That the Scholten really were able to react the way they did, had to do – seen from a wider perspective – with the specific municipal balances of power and connecting political intrigues and strategies. In spite of the available means of power, the new Winterswijk elites for a long time left intact the land ownership, the very source of power of the Scholten. This fact would have considerable consequences for the agrarian development of the Winterswijk countryside.
Pre-war Winterswijk was in many respects a society that rapidly modernized and changed. Since 1870 the quickly growing textile industry in the centre of the village served as a flywheel. This village centre developed within a few decades into one of the most important centres of industry and main-tenance in the Achterhoek. The growth of population in the village was in keeping with this development: from about five thousand inhabitants in 1900 to eleven thousand in 1930 (the municipality as a whole: 17,000). A large, politically aware category of workers and an extensive middle class developed, and from previous linen traders, there developed a rank of modern textile manufacturers. Together with three rural categories – the old Scholten, the tenants and the “self-inherited” (= independent) farmers – this collective gave the Winterswijk of the first decades after the turn of the century a mixed character.
Political life was of a vitality absolutely unknown to Achterhoek standards. The leading people in the pre-war Winterswijk political scene were the socialist-orientated workers, the Scholten as the traditional men in power in the countryside, and the textile manufacturers. The labourers were organized in the Social-Democrat Labour party and unions; the Scholten and the textile manufacturers constituted the top of the liberal parties – Liberal-Democratic Alliance and the Liberal State Party and the farmers and members of the middle classes were the rank and file. Since Winterswijk was secularized early, the religious parties could boast of only some support among the groups last mentioned. The course of the power struggle between these three categories had considerable consequences for the agrarian future of the Winterswijk countryside. One of the most important pre war political issues was the reclamation of wasteland for agrarian use.
The prelude of the reclamation issue was played out in the ninteenth century. After the example of their companions in Twente the rising Winterswijk textile manufacturers too had “lifting and modernization of the countryside” recorded in their political programme. A remarkable cocktail of philanthropy, enlightened ideology and, especially later, political considerations were the underlying conditions. One expedient was the foundation of the department Winterswijk of the Geldersch-Overijsselsche Society of Agriculture (GOMvL) in 1864. Rather quickly in this organization, room was made for the Scholten. After all, for reaching the simple farmer it was necessary to come to an understanding with these influential landowners. However by doing so and for a long time, the course was set out for the Winterswijk GOMvL. The Scholten had joined particularly for motives of prestige and at the very most they wished to shoulder the co-responsibilility for marginal agrarian changes. Their lifestyle as landed gentry with conservative agricultural views and their relations with their tenants, based on honour and paternalism, did not allow for structural changes as the textile manufacturers encouraged. One advocated structural change was a large-scale approach of land reclamations, at which new cultivated land would benefit the land hungry small holders. The Scholten, however, delayed proposals in that direction. In the beginning with much success. The special relation to the Scholten held back the nouveau riches of the village from a frontal confrontation on this point. In the Winterswijk society the Scholten were more their equals than others; they got on with each other in several contexts in spite of an increasing disdain for each other’s job. The resulting stalemate culminated in the already quoted advertisement in the Nieuwe Winterswijkse Courant in which the GOMvL exhorted sons of farmers to migrate to another place.
In about 1920 a break-through was dawning. In 1920 the “State Committee of Advise with regard to reclamation of Wastelands” was brought about. This committee was set out to “promote the coming into being of small farms on waste-lands”. The state provided for this effort. Further initiatives were left to the municipal authorities which were also responsible for the implementation: they had to send an application to the Committee, draw up a plan, mediate by finding suitable candidates, and stand surety for the repayment of the credits supplied per farm. Another important development was the expansion in 1917 of the right to vote. This meant for Winterswijk that the growth and radicalization of the working class at long last was suddenly translated into a strong position of the Social-Democrat Labour party in the local council. Perhaps this success made the party reckless because the Labour party started to manifest itself also in the countryside. The land hungry rural population gained a nice foothold. The eloquent Winterswijk SDAP-leader Aäron van Dam directly set himself up as the great champion of reclamations, astutely anticipated the smouldering differences of opinion within the political alliance of the Scholten-textile notables. This course of events induced to action the textile barons who didn’t want to risk a strong SDAP in the countryside too, a real danger in those days. Pointing out the credits of the government and supported by a propaganda visit of the State Committee members Lovink and Van Lonkhuyzen at last the energetic GOMvL president and textile manufacturer W.A. Willink succeeded in carrying through with his intentions. In spite of intense resistance of the Scholten, the GOMvL presented a plan concerning the reclamation of one hundred hectares waste-land – land that was for most part property of the Scholten. The scene of battle transported itself to the local council, which had to decide about additional subsidies. Without these subsidies the plan could not go on.
Although the pro-reclamation attitude of the SDAP, the public character of the arena, and the possible state credits formed new elements, the battle inside the local council was in many respects a spitting image of the discussion in the GOMvL. The Scholten persevered in their recalcitrant attitude, but also the textile barons maintained their ambivalent position. This effort is remarkable at first sight because with the support of the SDAP-opposition, since the twenties the biggest party in the council, the reclamations could have been realized easily. The fierce oppositional politics of the socialists in other fields however – we are in the era of the famous textile strikes – made such an unnatural alliance still impossible.
In addition it would have been a must to let down their own coalition partners . On the other hand the red leaders like Van Dam and Eijkmans stayed more often in kitchens of farmers than they cared for. In short, there were signs that the SDAP actually obtained a foothold on countryside territory. The textile manufacturers tried to avoid a choice between the Scylla of a broken coalition and the Charybdis of socialism by bringing soft pressure to bear on the Scholten in order to induce them as yet to agree with the plan. The representatives of the Scholten in the local council anticipated this with dexterity by wrapping up their flat refusal in public as much as possible with references to supposed slight viability of reclamation farms.
Not until far in the twenties did this trench war come to an end. The government stepped in with more subsidies but threatened at the same time with a general withdrawal of the state contribution if the plan, which meanwhile was amended substantially, would not get municipal approval rapidly. Following this a proposal was put to the vote in the local council. This proposal contained acquisition and if necessary expropriation of the required lands. The textile barons finally made their choice: the proposal was accepted and only the Scholten patriarch Tenkink voted against it.
There are classic rural subjects to distinguish the Winterswijk reclamation problems, such as an oppressed agrarian elite, penetrating agrarian modernization, a powerless cluster of farmers who only hope for help of influentual outsiders, and outsiders themselves who flirt with the interests of farmers but who have in mind only their own interests.
Acceptance of the plan had strong symbolic significance for Winterswijk. It meant a definitive encroachment upon the centuries old Scholten-monopoly on landownership and at the same time a further degradation of their position of power in the countryside. It marked a separation, already presenting itself for a time, between the nouveau riches of the village and the old rural patriarchs. It meant also, with the various lease laws in the offering, a swing of power in favour of tenants and independent farmers (“own herited”). The political haggling about the plan gave the farmers a Pyrrhic victory. In material respect, the plan didn’t mean too much any longer. Ultimately six farms at fifty hectares of land saw the light of day. Still more important was the fact that as a result of dawdling over the plan for years, the twenties, a period of agrarian boom and years favourable for reclamations were nearly over. Meanwhile the Scholten did continue – almost undisturbed – with afforesting the waste-lands and with “pampering” wooded wind girdles and wooded banks and by doing so reduced the territory of direct reclaimable land. It is correct that nowadays in nature-historic circles the name “young Scholten estate landscape” or “youngest Scholten landscape” is set aside for the only recently planted areas.
Of course, the new period of agriculture and the favourable economic situation (also) didn’t pass by the Winterswijk farmer unnoticed. Where possible one took the spade in hand, reclaimed a small piece of heath, or put the axe in a tree, especially at the northeastern edge of the Winterswijk sand plateau, where the Scholten were less dominant. However the favourable tide for massive reclamations and rationalisation of the landscape fitted with every modern convenience because agriculture was over. Where elsewhere at the sandy soils one forest after another became a prey to (the) agrarian improvement, in Winterswijk the chance was lost to level the wooded banks to the ground, not to mention that there wasn’t any possibility at clearing the newly planted pine forests at the heather fields. The crisis of the thirties and the Second World War followed. It was a period in which the activities of reclamation , except for some unemployment relief workprojects, laid idle.
In retrospect the conclusion can be made that the consequences to the environment and the landscape from the incomplete modernization of the countryside between 1920 and 1930 weighed heavily upon the Winterswijk farmers – even when the conservative Scholten were deprived of their position of power so long ago. The direct line to the landscape problems of the eighties can be pulled via several tracks.
Nature Conservation Lobby
Legal and other obstructions for the reformation of the landscape to an agrarian model were little until the thirties. Conservation of nature was at the utmost a hobby of a few individuals or a hobby of elderly (getting on in years) associations, whereas the few government laws (Natural/scenic beauty Act 1928, Forest Act 1917, 1922)1922) had a limited range. This changed after the Second World War. The proceeding urbanization and the increasingly manifest intolerance between modern agriculture and nature conservation formed the breeding ground for a well organized nature and landscape lobby supported by subsidies provided by private persons and government. In its wake nature conservation got a higher priority from the authorities. On the one hand this recognition expressed itself in a number of specific laws and Orders in Council (revised Forest Act 1961, Nature Conservation Act 1967, ending of government subsidies for reclamations etc.) and on the other hand explicit attention to landscape and nature in the conglomerate of district plans, zoning schemes and other regional planning that since the sixties floods the Dutch countryside.
Apotheosis: the three green notes published in 1975 – note National Parks, the interim note National Landscape Parks and the so-called Relation note concerning the relationship between agriculture, nature and landscape – as a new element – gave protection to completely cultivated landscapes.
It may be clear, however, that all these activities were particularly effective at places where something was still present that could be protected. On balance the arranging of land for agrarian purposes could continue almost undisturbed in areas where already before the war a rather good start was made. All-powerful agrarian interest groups combined with weak resistance of organized nature conservation did the rest of the job. The fate allotted to the Winterswijk countryside was different. Before the war only an accidental passerby had an eye for the wonderful brook valleys or the charming wooded banks but since that time the region could be glad about the nature conserving interest of numerous semi-private associations and government bodies. Locally supported by a rising stream of newcomers – the wealthiest among them liked to settle down in a comfy little Saxon farm – these organizations discovered separate wildlife areas as well as a perfect old “landscape of wings” (coulisse) which in a miraculous way had survived the agrarian revolution. The parts that were most interesting in nature scientific sense were declared nature reserve or nature monument; the substantial Foundation Het Gelders Landschap bought up several old Scholten estates; the more politically committed Foundation Nature and Landscape opposed, and with success, complete canalization of main brooks and side brooks the district water board “Berkel” had in mind. At the same time local organizations for nature conservation, with the law in their hands, disturbed agriculture greatly by declaring every cut down tree to be an environmental disaster.
Taking off ‘overlord’, i.e. dominating shackles, striving after modernization, and organizing into cooperatives and farmers unions – now with leaders out of its own circle – the farmers were far from docile co-workers. Their resistance expressed itself among others in a lot of bickering within the lobby of nature conservation. Perhaps this came forward most sharply in the commotion about the mentioned canalization of brooks (the ‘bekenplan’) Its unsatisfying turn for the farmers contributed to the later anti-landscape frame of mind. The relative success, however, of the nature protectors indicates a qualitative change. The most important production means of the farmers, the Winterswijk soil, was more and more as public, yes national, property with father state as protector-in-chief. In the far away Hague, the nature conservers of the government worked on the idea of the Winterswijk park landscape to conserve as a whole. The green notes supplied them with the scope of the work. The circle almost closed: the state in the conserving role which was fulfilled in former times at the local level by the Scholten.
Re-allotment of Land
Perhaps the line between the past and now can be drawn still more directly by stating uncategorically yet simply that nature conservation and landscape protection seriously affects agriculture. The acceptance of the Re-allotment of Land Act in 1954 did great damage to our local farmers. Large parts of the Netherlands changed permanently into instantly made “nature” with “well-designed” cycle- and foot-paths for the needs of day visitors into this otherwise treasured agricultural landscape.
The re-allotment of land, an euphemism for total culture-technical rearrangement of the countryside has since the fifties been one of the most important instruments of policy. Its goal is shaping favourable conditions for modern large-scale agriculture. Applied for many years now about 40,000 hectares per year are affected, and the price tag for the government is 450 million hard-earned guilders.
It could be expected now that the instrument of re-allotment of land, being in complete agreement with the official ideology, was used particularly in the so-called ‘agricultural problematical areas’, areas characterized by an inefficient fitting up of land for agriculture. A number of mechanisms however has caused a gap between theory (doctrine) and practice, ideology and reality. The influential organizations of agriculture especially insisted on reaching the policy goal of 40,000 hectares per year in execution or, if possible, even more. Everything here is in agreement with the motto “catch-as-catch-can”. Something influenced ranking the re-allotment blocks on the national scheme and in this way the choice of the blocks which were to be taken into execution. After all, given the budget, many too expensive blocks (blocks with a bad agrarian infrastructure) would either exceed the budget or frustrate the norm of 40,000 hectares. Also the factor “political ripeness” played a role: an area got a low priority if for the time being the chance was estimated little that a proposal for re-allotment of land would survive if it was brought to the vote, considering resistances by farmers or by the organizations to protect nature. Particularly at places where these organizations were locally influential it very often took a long time before a systematic modus-vivendi between interests of nature and agriculture could be formulated which had a chance to be successful. And then there still was the remarkable EC-guideline ’72/159′. Based upon this guideline those blocks got priority if it was expected that after the execu-tion of the re-allotment of land about fourty percent of the land could be farmed by enterprises with an approved plan of development or seventy percent by farms with a ‘development goal’. No matter how vague and arbitrary it might be, as well on account of this guideline exactly the agrarian weaker areas came in last in the ranking scheme.
The cumulative effect of this all is (1984) rather tarnishing, thirty years after the Re-allotment Act of 1954. Via intransparant weighs in official bureaucratic bodies like the Culture-technical Service or the Culture-technical Committee and escaped from the hold of the locals involved, the re-allotments of land in fact only strengthened in particular the already favorable position of the better areas of agriculture. Some of these areas have been able to profit from landscape management fitted to agriculture for more than a decade. On the other hand are agrarian areas of problem directed to the waiting room, like the western border of the Veluwe or like Achtkarspelen. The same happened to the Winterswijk countryside. Local organizations of farmers argued in favor of re-allotments of land for many years. Still always the rank of farmers must try to survive in a landscape of Charles Dickens. Now at last only Winterswijk-West has a vague insight in the execution of re-allotment activities. That can at least be called a succes on paper for the farmers, in view of the frantic attempts to thwart by the local lobby of nature protectionists. Also for Winterswijk-East, which is the most valuable part from the point of view of landscape, an application has been submitted. Whether it will ever be taken into execution in considering savings and landscape plans is an open question. A cycle of re-allotment of land takes fifteen to twenty years from application to execution. If in Winterswijk actual re-allotments of land will be executed, much more than with earlier re-allotments of land ten or twenty years ago, interests of landscape and nature have to be considered. Once more it looks like “timing” of crucial events puts the Winterswijk farmers in arrears and to again save the landscape. Looking at the postwar developments in relative connection, than the one, nature-loving arm of government filled up smoothly the space left by the other specific agrarian arm of government. In unanimous cooperation with organized protection of nature they immortalized the missed chances in the field of agriculture from the time before the Second World War; unanimous too they embroidered on the landscape conserving Scholten traditions. The result of this unmeant symbiosis: a rational plan in which (the) surviving old patterns of nature and landscape are no longer left to the capricious course of history and interests of farmers are sacrificed intentionally. The historical conflict between agriculture and landscape in Winterswijk has entered (with this) a second, and perhaps decisive round.
Note: This chapter, placing the situation of the Winterswijk farmers in a clear historical perspective, was adapted integrally out of “Intermediair” from 17 February 1984. It was written by Dr. G.W.F. Wildenbeest, originating from Aalten. He studied agriculture and cultural anthropology.