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Special treat for visitors

Farmer rebuilds former silo as observatory of Frisian Sea mudflats

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

MARRUM, the Netherlands - A local dairy farmer struggling a couple of years ago with ideas about how to improve his business, turned his operation into a tourist attraction. Gerben Visbeek recently enhanced his place when he rebuilt a 22 metres-high silo into an observatory where visitors can look out over the Frisian Sea.

Transforming his dairy operation into a full-fledged tourist facility took a few years. In 2000, Visbeek, who never had fully recovered from a car accident fifteen years earlier and could not operate the farm on his own anymore, kept the buildings but sold his acreage, his dairy cows and his milk quota to become a full-time tourism operator. Offering camping facilities, hayrides, tours through the neighbourhood, a petting zoo and other attractions for day visitors and campers, Visbeek still lacked a high-profile draw to his northern Friesland facility.

The farm's silo had been used to store silage for his cows. One of the tallest buildings in the neighbourhood, the silo, after it had been cleaned and equipped with a set of stairs in its interior, became a watchtower, allowing visitors an unobstructed view of the mudflats, the Frisian Sea and the islands of Terschelling and Ameland.


Many farmers like Visbeen have branched out into a range of endeavours, often by adding camping facilities and hayrides. It is their way to offset declining income and rising costs. Stringent EU and national government regulations on production, the storage and disposal of manure and other operational complexities, have pushed many farmers into sideline activities, or get out of farming alltogether. Others pulled up stakes to emigrate to harvest foreign fields.