In 2005 Martin Topper switched from coal to colored carrots with his company Zonneheerdt. Successfully. Because if you say colored carrots nowadays in the Netherlands, then you will soon also already mention Zonneheerdt.
Martin Topper with colored carrots. Photo: Bejo Root magazine
Martin Topper comes from education. He was a teacher at VMBO Groen. But his father had a farm in Dronten. When he approached his retirement age, it started to tickle with Martin: education was a beautiful world, but would not it be better to be able to apply the theory itself in practice? In 2005 he joined the partnership. "We wanted to specialize in something and started cultivating 2 hectares of color carrots, just to see if that cultivation was ours and what we encountered." Since then, we have grown every year, step by step. 55 hectares of carrots, colored beetroot, parsnips and carrot parsley. " The growth that Zonneheerdt makes is very well thought out. Martin Topper is not of the risks. 'First find sales, then grow', is his motto. It is also the product that encourages that caution. "You can always find sales for regular carrots," he says. "For colored carrots, that's something else, it's still a niche product."
His clientele is now as diverse as the colors of his products: these are at Delhaize's shelves, at Dutch retailers, at the foodservice, in France and the UK, through distributors in Scandinavia and the Far East, but also at the same time. vegetable specialty stores and the markets in the region. A good move Martin has made in this is the choice for his own label Zonneheerdt. "We want to distinguish ourselves not only with our product, but also with the presentation of it, and we started rinsing and packaging ourselves in 2013. We do this in wooden crates with a rural look and feel that this is how Zonneheerdt is more than just a product. The label also stands for authenticity and quality. "
When we dive into the process, we see that Martin sows his products on backs. "A back is just a little faster warm than a flat field and it also keeps the heat a little longer.Also, a back is generally drier than a flat field.The beet grows nicely if it is just a bit drier in the beginning. that we do not get the maximum yield, but that loss does not weigh up against the profit on quality. " As a Skylark certified company, Martin uses extensive building plans and he works his land with as much respect for the ground as possible. "In any case, my product actually asks for it: in the Far East, the requirements for permitted residues are very different from those here, and the parsnip is a lot more sensitive to soil herbicide and weed controllers, so I do as much as possible. You do not like that either, with the hoeing you do the same and you avoid green heads, with the added advantage that you have less problems with mice and carrot flies. " All products are grubbed with the clamping band, including the beets. A conscious choice for quality. Partly Martin stores the storage himself. However, the bulk of the product goes to coolers. "For every product and even every variety, the ideal conditions are different: yellow carrots, for example, turn green if you pack them directly from the land, which always has to be stored for a short while: parsnips may be kept slightly colder than carrots. now by way of trial stand at minus 1. I notice that he dries a little too much, which I have to take into account next time.And how cold you keep your beets? There's a lot of discussion about that.You're talking about the sugar content 'De Brix' I usually leave it for four to five days before I start processing it, then it comes loose, but that's the trick of the beet: it can be different every year.
Martin Topper is happy with the choices he has made in the past. From teacher to grower, with plots in the provinces of Flevoland, Limburg and Zeeland. From cabbage to colored products. In the meantime, he awaits the following radical decision: new construction. The seven employees at his company work in relatively old barns, which have remained behind in appearance and functionality in the development of the company. The plans have been in the making for some years now. In 2018 it must come of it. Are there any other developments? "Yes, in fact, we are concentrating on small packaging, and many products leave our company in 5 kilograms of packaging, while we now also produce 1 kilograms of crates, but you also see more and more initiatives coming into the margins, such as Kromkommer, which works against waste of products that do not conform to the ideal form Last year we put together a parsnip soup on the market In addition, in 2017 we first cultivated a red carrots in a trial, the Redsun (Bejo 3061) In India, this is a popular product, but in India one can not grow all year round, I expect that there are still opportunities for me, and that's how we grow, very steadily, every year with one or two customers. that suits our products and me. "
Source: Bejo Root magazine