'Working and living in Maasheggen does people good'

Monique Verheijen and Nico ter Woord

A beautiful organic farm, in the middle of the Maasheggengebied, is home to day care De Schutkooi. Owners Monique Verheijen and Nico ter Woord offer small-scale day care and learning-work programs for people with disabilities. The natural and inspiring environment of Maasheggen provides a safe and warm home for fifteen participants every day.

Monique Verheijen and Nico ter Woord rent the building from Eric Lamers, an organic dairy farmer in Vortum-Mullem. Part of a stable and Lamers' land are also part of the daycare facility. Every day, men and women "with a backpack" between the ages of 22 and 80 take care of the animals in the yard and do chores on the farm. "They also perform work for Staatsbosbeheer in the Maasheggen area, such as clearing litter, replacing a barrier, for example, and planting hawthorn hedges," said Nico ter Woord. "We go shopping together, take care of the maintenance of the local bowling alley, keep the cemetery leaf-free and mow the village lawn. Just the other day we placed a bench at the Ad de Ponti trail, a nature trail that runs right in front of the farm."

What does the Maasheggen mean to you?
Monique Verheijen: "We and our people feel at home here and are very happy and grateful to be working here tomorrow. Four words tell exactly what we feel here: peace, space and a place to meet and discover."
Visitors to the day care center recently began planting a 500-foot hawthorn hedge in the meadow in front of the house. These plants were donated by the Nature Inclusive working group. At a later stage, pools will be created behind the hedge. "In this way we are helping to restore nature in the Maasheggen area. It is a beautiful project, with visible results. As soon as the hedge is mature, we also want to prune it. Our clients are sensitive to the atmosphere of the area, to the openness and the changes of the seasons, each with its own beauty. Working and living so close to nature does something to people, in a positive sense.

Butterfly trail latest project
Eric Lamers wants to develop his herb-rich grassland, together with the Butterfly Foundation, into the most butterfly-rich farm. Visitors to the daycare farm have created a trail along which members of the Butterfly Foundation are conducting butterfly counts.
On June 19, members of the IVN will count moths along the path by setting traps. Those "traps" are buckets on which a cloth is placed, after which the butterflies are counted. 'We also maintain the signs with information and photos of the most common butterflies. We mow the route when necessary, but leave the edges and roadsides standing because only after a number of years will it be clear whether this allows more butterflies to (over)live in this part of Maasheggen," says Nico ter Woord. "The butterfly route is public, so also very nice to walk it with children, with your family, with colleagues, and so on."

Future Maasheggen
Biodiversity is very important for the survival of many plants and animals including butterflies and bees. There are two hives at the farm; a beekeeper cranks out honey from the hives twice a year. Each hive yields about 14 kilograms of honey. "So we have about 50 kilograms of honey every year that is 99% organic. That 1%? A bee goes 5 to 7 kilometers from the hive to get food. We have no control over that food. Hence the 99%.

What could be better?
Monique Verheijen and Nico ter Woord see it as a great loss that there is not yet an information center in the Maasheggen area. "Schools, visitors and recreationists know little or sometimes nothing at all about the area and its origins," Ter Woord observes. "I know a wonderful place for such a center. Here at the Schutkooi!"

Want to know more about day care De Schutkooi? Visit www.dagbestedingdeschutkooi.nl

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