Peter and Marian Van den Goor were successful hydroponic farmers in Holland. In 2002, they emigrated to Australia, where they once again took up hydroponic vegetables in Numurkah, and then Katunga.
My name is Marian Van den Goor, my husband Peter and I lived in the south of Holland in a province called Limburg, close to the border of Belgium and Germany. The area was flat, similar to the Shepparton area. Most of the land in our area was used for agriculture but this was getting less each year because the government made it hard for the farmers with all the environmental rules and the prices were very competitive with the other European countries. Holland is half the size of Tasmania with a population nearly as much as Australia, 17 million.
My husband Peter has three brothers and one sister and I have two brothers, our parents are all in good health and all our families are in the agricultural business.
In Holland, Peter and I established a hydroponic business on two hectares of glasshouse where we grew hydroponic cucumbers and tomatoes, which employed from 4 - 5 people. Because it was getting harder for the agricultural businesses to run their farms, we had to make a decision whether to upgrade our business or do something different. We decided to have a look at some other countries to start a new life.
In 1999, we had a look at Canada, which was nice, but cold in winter. One year later, we came to Australia to look around. Because of the climate and the countryside, we liked it very much and the people were very friendly as well so we decided to come to Australia.
We applied for our visas at the end of 2000 and it took us two years to get organised. We think the attacks in America on September 11 slowed down the process a fair bit. In the meantime, we were looking for farms on the internet and somebody who had lived in the same area as us in Holland that had immigrated a couple of years before us was also looking for properties that would suit us as well. We managed to find a property on the Internet that had a small plastic greenhouse so we got our acquaintance to check it out for us. As soon as we got our visa, we ordered a container to ship our furniture and other things to Australia and booked a flight.
We left Holland on Friday the 22 of November 2002; some friends drove us to the airport and saw us off. Going on the plane was very exciting for our four young kids aged two, four, six and seven because it was their first time. Of course, it was also a little bit sad to leave the family behind especially the grandparents. We arrived at Melbourne airport on Saturday evening at eight o'clock. Our acquaintance picked us up and we had to drive for two and half hours to the Goulburn Valley to their home where we stayed for the night.
The day after we arrived we planned to see the property we were going to buy and meet the owners and the real estate agent. Because we had to arrange the settlement, we could not move into the house straight away. The real estate agent organized a holiday house for us in Lakeside, Numurkah, for a fortnight, which we really enjoyed, especially the kids because there was a swimming pool and minigolf.
After two weeks, we moved into the house. Because our furniture and belongings were still on their way to Australia by boat, and would not arrive by Christmas time; we did not have anything to furnish our house. Nevertheless, the previous owners were kind enough to leave some beds and mattresses for as long as we needed them. In addition, our new neighbours came over that same evening with a television, washing machine, microwave, chairs, kettles, plates, table and from another Dutch migrant we were given a couch and we could borrow a car.
Therefore, we were not short of anything. It was overwhelming how helpful everybody was. This gave us a very good feeling.
When we were still in Holland and we knew we were going to live in Katunga, Australia, we had constant contact with the owner of the property we were going to buy. Because we had four kids who had to go to school, they got us in contact with the principal from Katunga South Primary School, who lived next door to them. I phoned her from Holland to enrol our kids at that school. She was very pleased. Therefore, when we left Holland they had their last school day on Thursday.
We arrived on Saturday and met the principal on Sunday at our future home. She brought some school uniforms and school stuff. Therefore, the kids went to school on Monday. Of course, the first days were hard for them because the kids could not speak or understand English. However, the teachers and kids were very helpful and tried to involve our kids in everything they were doing. After a couple of weeks, they picked up the language and they seemed to enjoy it. In addition, if the kids are happy it makes it a lot easier for the whole family.
On our new property, there was a hydroponic greenhouse where we grew tomatoes. Because it was a small set-up, we could get the work done easy with the two of us and have plenty of time to integrate and socialise with the people in the area. We enjoyed our first year here, met many new people and had a look around Victoria.
After a year of taking it easy and not having enough to do, we decided to build a bigger glasshouse to grow tomatoes. We bought a bigger property in Katunga near the natural gas line and started a hydroponic set-up of one hectare. After surviving the first year with a few hiccups, especially with labour, it is running smoothly now and we have decided to build another hectare under glass because we think there is a good future in growing hydroponic tomatoes.
Of course, it is not easy to move to the other side of the world, leaving your family behind, but we have no regrets. The people over here are very nice and helpful, and our kids like living here just as much as we do. Both our parents have been over here to visit us, enjoyed their stay here and liked the culture and countryside. Now they understand more clearly, why we made the move to Australia.
From The Adviser, 2 October 2013, Front Page
Source: Suitcase Full of Dreams (Reproduced with permission)
Image Credit: WikiShepp