Gerrit Meester passed away on 27 February as a result of a serious fall suffered at home two days earlier. Gerrit Meester was a professor by special appointment at our faculty until he was accorded emeritus status in 2009.
The initial focus of his teaching was Agricultural Economics; in 2002 this was changed to European Economic Integration, specialising in the Agricultural and Food Sector.
Gerrit was born into a farming family in Ommen in 1944. After completing his studies at the Agricultural University in Wageningen, he taught Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam’s Faculty of Law. Due to his strong interest in European agricultural policy, Gerrit switched from his teaching role to a research position at the Agricultural Economics Research Institute (LEI). He conducted detailed research at the institute into the pricing and income policy for the agricultural sector and the impact on Common Agricultural Policy in Europe. He received his doctorate in 1985 for his dissertation De groene zorgen van Europa: drie studies over het EG-landbouwbeleid.
A short time later, his activities shifted from policy analysis to policy preparation and implementation. He consequently transferred from the LEI to the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. Until his retirement, he was an adviser to no less than 6 ministers at this ministry. In some cases he was the person who first introduced ministers to issues in the agricultural sector. A common theme in Gerrit Meester’s ideas was that in principle, the agricultural sector did not differ from other economic sectors. That is why we should preferably carry over the basic principles of the market economy, with the caveat that markets always need some guidance and supervision.
When Gerrit Meester commenced teaching Agricultural Economics at our faculty in 1992, he was not able to attract a sufficient number of students for this course, in spite of his enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge of the subject. When the European Economic Integration (EEI) course was in danger of being discontinued due to faculty cutbacks in 1999, a solution was found to resolve this problem: Gerrit was made a lecturer in an integrated course which went on to be resounding success. There was more interest in his initial area of expertise due to the fact that issues pertaining to European and international agricultural policy were regularly featured in the revamped EEI course. Additionally, many examples from agriculture and agribusiness were used when dealing with EU integration and policy processes. The number of students in his course jumped from 30 to 100, with almost half coming from abroad. This was the reason for changing the focus of his teaching to European Economic Integration, specialising in the Agricultural and Food Sector.
In 2002, Gerrit Meester’s teaching duties were expanded to include a module in ‘Food safety, food security, and the environment’ in the International Economics master’s programme. His expertise was optimally put to use in the WTO negotiations simulation game. In the late 90s, Gerrit taught his specialism in the ‘Global food supply, international trade and agricultural policy’ elective course as well as in the lecture series ‘The Dutch Economy’ for international exchange students.
Gerrit also filled a role at the intersection of education and research as the thesis supervisor for the dissertation Ruimtelijke verschuivingen in de EU-landbouw 1950-1992. The doctoral candidate, Dirk Strijker, received his PhD in January 2000 and this was recorded as the first UvA doctorate in the new millennium.
His students from that time will remember him as an enthusiastic, inspirational lecturer who was an expert in the field of agricultural and negotiation issues. The staff of the Amsterdam School of Economics, especially the International Economics chair, will remember him as a friendly colleague who enjoyed working together with others.