Dean Zuidgeest became a co-owner of family-owned Villa Gerbera and Villa Curcuma on 1 January this year. If he’s not in the greenhouse, then he’s probably on the tennis court or working out at the gym.

I recently joined Royal FloraHolland’s Youth Council, where I’m involved in the events that we organise. It’s fun because it's something totally new. I have other kinds of responsibilities in the company. So by joining the Youth Council, I get to learn something new.

But that’s not the most important aspect for me; it's the network. Meeting other entrepreneurs who are in the same boat. The Youth Council gives me that opportunity. It’s nice to talk about the challenges we face.And who knows, we might be able to help each other. I think you have to look beyond your own business and culture. I believe you can learn a lot from growers who have a completely different culture and operations. We are all entrepreneurs.

Standing together for our future

I’ve only been in the Youth Council for a short time, but I can recommend it to everyone. Being a member makes me look differently at the world around me. I discuss developments in the market with the other members. And through our network within Royal FloraHolland, we also hear faster when something happens. We talk about current topics. In December, we had a conversation with three politicians during an event of the Youth Council. We made sure to ask them critical questions. It is nice that we were heard. Of course, you never know what happens after that. But it’s always better than just complaining within the walls of your company. That never helps anyone.

I’d actually never heard of the Youth Council until the end of last year, which is bizarre because I’ve been in this sector for quite a while now. My educational background is secondary vocational education, followed by higher vocational education in horticulture. I also did internships at many different companies.

There are still many young entrepreneurs who don’t know about the Youth Council. I think that is a real shame. Because it’s important that we, as young growers, come together to think about our future. For example, by having conversations with the Supervisory Board and the management of Royal FloraHolland. And by organising awareness sessions with and for young people. Awareness of the Youth Council could be improved. I hope that more young entrepreneurs like me will get involved.

A positive vision for the future

Currently, there are quite a few challenges facing the floriculture industry. As a young entrepreneur, an example for me is planning for the future. Suppose I make a big investment now. Something that allows my business to grow or become more sustainable. It’s good for me and for the industry, you would say. But then government policy changes and my investment is no longer worth anything. It’s as if the rules change while you’re playing the game. It's not fairand it makes looking ahead difficult. These are things I can worry about all on my own, but it’s so much better to share this burden with others. To find out if they are also dealing with this issue and see if they might have some solutions. Then, to make our voices heard at, for example, Royal FloraHolland, Glastuinbouw Nederland and the political level. Things change only when we speak up. Together, we are stronger.

My grandfather and my father were both very active in the cooperative, so it’s only natural that I am too. All of our flowers go through Royal FloraHolland's platforms. And that’s the case for most growers, to a greater or lesser extent. Being an active member of the cooperative can only increase your knowledge and your network. You learn a lot and there is a low barrier to entry. So, come to the meetings or join the Youth Council. Just do it!

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