Our Nature: Who we are
Venhorst was founded in 1920 when the ferocious heathlands of the Peel were cultivated and reclaimed for agriculture. At present, about 1700 people are living here. The village did not get its present name until 1936. It was named after the many fens (= ‘vennen’) in the area and after the raise in the landscape (= horst) on which the village settled. Once, these moors stretched from Grave in the North and went beyond Weert across the Belgian border to Neerpelt and Overpelt in the South. What remains now are the ‘Peelvenen’:
A unique area of wet heathland that straddles the border between the provinces of Brabant and Limburg.
This area was designated by the European Union as ‘very valuable nature area’ (Natura 2000) and needs to be preserved and protected.
For centuries the Peel area was dangerous and virtually impossible to cross. The mossy vegetation grows on top of an abundance of water that does not naturally drain off here because of the fault lines in the deep subsurface. In the course of thousands of years the moss has grown into a floating package often several meters thick. Originally the heathlands were in use as commons for herding sheep and beekeeping. Peat was extracted for fuel, initially by farmers, who were carving out an existence under harsh environmental conditions along the borders of the Peel.
Large-scale peat extraction begins in the middle of the 19th century and is accompanied by substantial disruptions of the landscape. Channels were dug for the transport of extracted peat.
The removal of water as a consequence of these activities created a problem for local farmers at the time. During the same period, the number of inhabitants of this sparsely populated area grew. The workforce of companies cultivating the heathlands populated the first villages. The Netherlands needed to expand its agricultural territory and the sandy soils in the Southeast of Brabant offered unparalleled opportunities.
Driven by mechanization and globalisation, the growth potential for the agricultural sector turned out to be large and paid off: agriculture brought us prosperity. In Noord-Brabant, the entire production chain from ‘farm to fork’ is now well established. The province has become one of the most concentrated agri-food regions in the world: Noord-Brabant has 12,000 companies in primary production and 900 companies in related sectors. These companies together provide employment to about 100,000 people and represent 17.5% of Dutch exports in the agricultural sector. However, circumstances are changing fast, and in the last decades the sector has had to deal with economic contraction and reduced investments.