No other name above the door than Voskamp
Gebr. L & J Voskamp is a robust family business. Grandpa Jan once started with a mixed company, but now the company supplies loose tomatoes throughout Europe. The third generation is at the helm. What will the rate be?
Leen Voskamp stands in the doorway and proudly looks into 'the barn.' At the age of 77, he worked in the family business for almost sixty years, which he took over from father Jan and his brother Sjaak. "It used to be a mixed company. We even grew melons. In the 1970s and 1980s, we switched to growing tomatoes only."
Leen stands on a railing with his son John and sees below him how perhaps the most modern tomato sorting machine in the world is running quietly. A few employees walk around it. These check whether the tomatoes fall nicely in the cardboard boxes: the calm before the storm.
"As soon as the season starts, up to a hundred pickers are busy, and the sorting installation of Maf Roda is running continuously. The loading dock is then full of trucks," says John. In the distance drives one of the dozens of automatic carts that come out of the greenhouses. Pickers place the tomatoes in these aluminum trolleys, which then automatically go to the sorting machine.
Leen: "The only ones who are still working on the tomatoes are the pickers. We completely modernized the machine last year." This far-reaching form of mechanization is necessary. Under the direction of the brothers Leen and Sjaak, a complex of 32 hectares was dug into the ground in a few decades, from which approximately 20 million kg of loose tomatoes are extracted annually in unlit cultivation.
Scale size needed for good results
The entire market garden is set up to work efficiently, focuses entirely on loose tomatoes, and does not follow trends like snack tomatoes. Especially no-frills, the Voskampen should have nothing to show for appearances. Why a website? Through their trading company Voskamp Trading, the millions of kilos mainly go to buyers abroad. In an office, father and son talk about how they see the future, even though they don't want to say much about it.
Leen says several times that there has never been a program under development. "It just came our way, and you did it. I went to talk to the neighbors and eventually bought their land. That is how I came into possession of the land that had belonged to the orphanage", his eyes sting mischievously. He holds a pack of cigarettes tightly. It is clear from their argument that scale is necessary to earn money and then bring it back into the company. Leen: "The margins are small. Multiplication ultimately makes the sum. Many small pieces also make a mountain."
The family business must continue
With the death of his uncle Sjaak in 2020, John joined the family business, in which Sjaak's two sons also work. The entire permanent workforce is not much larger because the Rotterdam employment agency Ron van Loenen, owner of Axidus, has been supplying employees for more than 20 years. In addition to flexible work, Axidus also takes care of Voskamp's entire personnel organization. After graduating from high school, John started working at Peter Dekker Installaties (PDI) to later supervise the construction of greenhouses at home and abroad as a freelancer.
Concerning the use of screens in tomato cultivation, the Gebr. Voskamp real forerunners. A screen was installed in their greenhouse as early as the 1990s. At the time, a screen had a downright negative image among tomato growers, but Sjaak and Leen saw potential in it even then. Now use, following the Gebr. Voskamp, tomato, and other greenhouse vegetable growers in the Netherlands and abroad extensively use energy screens.
At Gebr. L & J Voskamp has now become an indispensable part of the movable energy screen. All 32 ha of greenhouses are therefore equipped with the highly transparent Luxous 1147 FR energy screen. "Even if the gas cost nothing more, the screen would remain in it because it is essential for a good greenhouse climate," Voskamp says.
"I was involved as a construction supervisor in several of Voskamp's expansion and renovation projects."
John looks at Dad and continues: "Why did I end up joining the family business? I would have thought it strange if a different name had come up above the door. I've always wanted to own my own business. It is quite clever what my father and uncle Sjaak have delivered; I would now like to continue that. There is a wonderfully beautiful company. I have learned and taken with me from my previous work to think in solutions and not in problems. Where is it going? Certain growth is necessary, but there are so many factors that everything depends on that I don't know how it will turn out. Well, we are far from done with the fourth generation. Our children are still too young."