The association De Oerakker primarily works for the improvement of old crops and varieties grown in the Netherlands, with the objective to avoid their extinction and preserve agricultural crops as a living cultural heritage.
It was founded in 1995 by Ruurd Walrecht. The team is now composed with Chris Kik, Noor Bas, Willem van Dooijeweert and Frand Menting.
The association is collaborating with three different networks focusing on the preservation of specific plant types.
The Eeuwig Moes network gathers several agricultural initiatives that are committed to the preservation and use of old, often forgotten, vegetable crops and varieties. The initiative is supported by managers of historic national gardens, but also local and urban gardens, vegetable growers, museums and other interested parties.
The De Bekoring network is concerned with the preservation, cultivation and distribution of old cereals and field herbs varieties. De Oerakker website provides information about the network’s collection of cereal crops and varieties as well as practical tips about the creation and use of grain fields.
The National Fruit network was created in 2017 within the framework of the ‘National Plan for in-situ Conservation’. It gathers several pomological associations and private individuals, preserving the Dutch plant cultural heritage by making an inventory of varieties that are currently maintained in the Netherlands. A panel of breed experts regularly review the varieties censused and select the ones that will eventually be preserved as Dutch cultural heritage.
De Oerakker coordinated the creation of the Orange List, which provides an overview of agricultural and horticultural varieties that were cultivated from 1850 to the World War II, showing which varieties are still commercially available or in which gene bank they are stored, focusing on the most threatened ones.
The Orange List is a tool to anyone who wants to participate to the enhancement of agricultural biodiversity, by knowing which varieties to buy and grow to revive part of the national heritage.
De Oerakker also launched the Heritage Seeds project, in collaboration with Stichting Zaadgoed and with the technical and administrative support of the Dutch Center for Genetic Resources. The aim of that project is to avoid the harmful effects related to the lack of demand and use of specific old plant varieties which are necessary, not only to be cultivated but also for the breeding of new varieties.
The Heritage Seeds project consists in a living seed bank which ensures the availability of seed varieties that are not much cultivated. But its ambition is also to involve more people in the preservation of Dutch agricultural and horticultural heritage crops through use, which requires to support the share of resources and knowledge – from cultivation to the marketing of heritage seeds.
De Oerakker needs members to achieve its goals. Anyone from the Netherlands who is enthusiastic about preserving local genetic heritage can make a concrete contribution to the preservation and use of old arable and vegetable crops, by joining De Oerakker’s network.
To become a member, you simply have to send an email to Chris Kik : firstname.lastname@example.org.