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Self-reliant Villages with their own Government
For centuries Drenthe was completely self-sufficient and self-reliant. Administrative matters too were handled within the local community, the so-called 'boermarken', a kind of farm collectives. Although the boermarken don't have power in an official capacity any more, they do still play an important role in the lives of the people of Drenthe.
In Drenthe the national government was far away. The country also had very little landed noblemen. This gave the farmers in Drenthe the freedom to govern themselves. By the late fourteenth century, they started marking the borders ('marken') of their living area. Together with their immediate neighbours, they organised into a boermarke. In this boermarke farmers agreed on how to manage collective lands.
Only wealthier farmers with a lot of land of their own, the so-called 'eigenerfden', could join the boermarke. Small farmers and tenant farmers, the so-called 'keuters' and 'meiers' were not admitted. The larger the farmer's farm, the larger his share in the 'marke'. The most important farmer in the village was appointed as ‘boerrigter’. If there was an important announcement, or if something needed to be done, he would blow the 'boerhoorn', the farmer's horn. The start of the harvest season, for instance, was always announced with this horn.
The farmers grew rye, barley, buckwheat, oats, and potatoes in their fields. Every farmer had a long strip of land. Together these strips formed the 'es', from which the name 'esdorp' or angerdörf comes. To keep the wildlife away from the fields, a wall was constructed around the 'es'. It was planted with oaks and bushes that provided the farmers with cattle feed, fruits, medicinal herbs, and firewood.
Close-knit Village Life
The farms were located on the edges of the es, together forming an 'esdorp' or 'brinkdorp', also known as an angerdörf. The farmers kept cows, pigs, and Drenthe Heath sheep, for meat, milk, and wool. Bees provide honey. Vegetables were grown in gardens. The village had a strong sense of community. Everyone helped each other when someone was in need.
Since the end of the 19th century, the boermarken don't have any official administrative powers any more. Despite this, there are still over eighty boermarken in Drenthe today. They did not only ensure strong solidarity, but are still used to manage the local area. For instance, the boermarken still manage some of the roads, and they're active in nature maintenance, meadow bird management, and constructing new natural biotopes. They work closely together with landscape management organisations and governments.