As Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Carola Schouten (1977) works day in day out on behalf of Dutch farmers, horticulturalists and fishermen. Who she is today, she says, was shaped years ago as a business administration student at Erasmus University. “It was the best time of my life.”
Carola Schouten's parents ran a farm in Giessen. But her father died early, so she and her siblings began helping their mother wherever they could. Schouten: “What held my interest wasn’t so much the farm itself as its managerial underpinnings: what processes were involved in its running, what must you pay attention to, how were decisions made ... My mum and I would often discuss these issues, and I knew before long that I wanted to know more about things like these.” Thus in 1995, at the age of seventeen, Schouten left the farm to study business administration. A Brabant native to the core, she’d deliberated for a while between Groningen and Rotterdam, but in the end chose the ‘down-to-earth’ port city with its promise of international allure.