Inspiring stories of Natolin alumni in times of pandemic – Bram VAN HECKE

We are happy and proud to see that our Natolin alumni are engaged in transformative initiatives worldwide. Right now a number of communities have to face hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three Natolinians, who actively support their communities during the present crisis, agreed to share with us their perspectives on the future of public health, the pharmaceutical industry and food security. What do they have in common? How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their work? How do they see the future locally and globally?

Read the first story of Bram VAN HECKE below and follow us for more!


The professional journey of Bram VAN HECKE, our alumnus from the Manuel Marín Promotion (2018/2019) truly proves the practical value of our interdisciplinary programme at the College of Europe in Natolin.

Having a degree in Bioscience Engineering, and a passion for the agricultural world, Bram decided to study European affairs in depth in order to make tangible impact within his community. We are very proud to see his engagement as president of an organization in Belgium's farming industry!

"Farming is a money and labor-intensive business, strongly depending on external and uncontrollable forces. One thing is certain – young farmers are the future of food production. In Flanders, Belgium, only 10% of farmers are younger than 40 years old. The situation is similar in most EU states. The business needs investments, public attention and – generational renewal.

We reach out to 41 local clusters of farmers, with a total of 3500 young people united by the organization. At the national level, we provide education in finance and management to farmers in order to support them in everyday business. Our organization also aims to ensure that the young farmer’s voice is heard by the government and considered during the policy making process."

In his work, Bram sets out the policy vision and supports his colleagues in the implementation process. His typical day involves team meetings, discussions with experts and most importantly the main stakeholders which are young farmers. Together with his team, he translates their needs into policy goals, which he further communicates to relevant MPs on national and European level. So far, the main challenge of this work was its intensity, but the passion for the topic and possibility to show the beauty of farming to a broader audience is very rewarding and motivating.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the work of Bram significantly. Currently, the organization’s priority is to make sure that farmers survive this crisis. In Flanders, flower farmers and potato farmers were the most affected as the prices plummeted. Furthermore, the situation regarding milk and meat price downfalls cannot be sustained for long. While in principle the organization’s focus is on young farmers, right now it cannot be ignored that the crisis is affecting farmers of all ages.

"This is the time to act in solidarity and reach out beyond our target group. We want to make sure that farmers of all ages are not left behind in these challenging times."