“It’s always interesting to me: People want local, people want sustainability, and then we’re trying to get rid of agriculture. We’re offshoring it, which makes no sense to me.
Why not grow this food here? We have the toughest regulations for food, the cleanest food, so let’s do it right here.”
Gerrit Van Weerdhuizen has been the Ag teacher and FFA advisor at Lynden Christian High School for over 40 years. Away from the classroom, he’s also a farmer raising 60-70 head of beef cattle and a member of the Whatcom County Cattlemen’s Association.
Looking to the future, there is a concern for who will carry the torch of farming and continue to produce food. “Mr. Van,” as students call him, offered hope. This year, Van Weerdhuizen has 20 students in his Introduction to Agriculture class, six of whom live on dairy farms, and the rest are all closely related to the industry. A senior in his class is making plans to return to dairy farming after working in the trades following high school.
Van Weerdhuizen said that there is an extreme need to understand agriculture, and credited the many local farmers as great teaching resources. He has often brought in these experts in their field – dairy, berry, potato, etc – to speak to his classroom of aspiring farmers and ag industry workers.
“As an ag teacher, you’re trying to cover all kinds of agriculture, and you’re really not an expert in any of those things versus the people who are actually doing it,” said Van Weerdhuizen. “I know a little bit about a lot of things, but not very much about anything. I love that I have a connection to the community and all these people. I am blessed, without a doubt, with all kinds of support.”
In the face of the rising pressures and concerns in the farming industry – economic pressures, anti-farm activism, political pressure, increasing regulation – along with the difficulties caused by the global pandemic, Van Weerdhuizen revealed what connects communities to their producers. “It doesn’t matter who you are, we are all here because we need food.”
Even when it seemed everyone had closed their doors, he pointed out that farming has never shut down. Cows continue to be milked. Fields are getting planted. Irrigation is being hooked up. Farmers know that seed is going to grow and will need to be harvested because we need to eat.
At the end of the interview, Mr. Van emphasized the importance of supporting our local family farms. “It’s always interesting to me: People want local, people want sustainability, and then we’re trying to get rid of agriculture. We’re offshoring it, which makes no sense to me. Why not grow this food here? We have the toughest regulations for food, the cleanest food, so let’s do it right here.”