Leading up to Machandel’s 40-year anniversary, Machandel is preparing for a board change. At the age of 72, Piet Glasbeek feels it is time to retire. Both sons Eliza and Jasja keep their roles within Machandel. It won’t be easy, Eliza knows. “With production doubling every years, we will be dealing with the issue of whether our growers can keep up with demand. And to expand the extensive Machandel product range even further, we will have to bring the coordination and stability of the processes to a higher level again and again.”
As children, Eliza and Jasja played carefree among the piles of cabbage that were waiting to be processed around their parents’ house. As boys, they earned their pocket money helping out in the production lines. “Every now and then at school, I’d hear about how my parents were doing something special. But as a child, I didn’t really pay too much attention to that.“ At home we didn’t discuss working at the company. As children, we had to discover our own talents. Both brothers opted for a career in IT.
However, with his knowledge of system management, Eliza often helped out solving problems in the company and in doing so, became more and more fascinated by the precise processes; from vegetable cultivation in the soil to the ready-made products ending up in customers’ homes. “My involvement in Machandel grew organically. And the same goes for my brother Jasja. At a certain point, I quit my job as an IT manager to fix all kinds of things at the factory and in the other departments. I went to trade fairs with my mother and met other pioneers from the organic world. I listened to their motivation and became familiar with their ideas.”
Around 2000, when his father was faced with the decision to build the large production hall in Haulerwijk, Eliza agreed to take on a role in Machandel. From that moment on, he focused on processing technology and the logistics required for that. “There is a fine balance between agriculture and technology. That is why Machandel does not engage in intermediate trade, as it cannot answer all our questions and meet all our wishes. Farmers can. They have the specific product knowledge we need in Haulerwijk to get the ingredients into the jar fresh from the harvest, and to have our production lines run as smoothly as possible. In our consultations on the farmland, we look at all the options and come up with improvements together. That way, we don’t purchase the cheapest ingredients, but we do get the ingredients that are the most delicious and easiest to process. Vice versa, we also invite our growers to the factory to come see why we prefer a certain product size, or why we want to avoid a certain type of weed. That way, we learn from each other and we share joint responsibility for the harvest.”
In the Netherlands, Machandel maintains these relationships that go back more than 35 years, now with the next generation of growers. We also have long-lasting ties with the biodynamic cooperatives abroad, in places including Egypt, Sicily and China. “In China, the farmers explained that there are six types of peanut, each with their own unique sizes and properties. We also learned that roasting has a major influence on quality and taste. Since we found that out, we have roasted our own peanuts. Now we save the raw peanuts in conditioned storage right up to the moment we process them into peanut butter. Thanks to our Chinese farmers, we were able to improve quality in our processing methods. In turn, we offer security of sales, even when the harvest comes out larger or smaller than expected. That gives them a footing and both parties benefit from mutual dependence.”
Without interference from his parents, Eliza has embraced the Machandel philosophy. “As I grasped the importance of the biodynamic philosophy, I got to know myself more and more. The vision behind it does not end with ecological meaning; it goes beyond that. Socio-economic aspects like how we treat our business partners and the responsibility we have to our own employees are part of it. My parents felt I had to find our for myself and that approach worked.”