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By Tess Holmgren

Urban agriculture projects are becoming increasingly popular and viewed as agents for providing food security, as well as a creative way of greening urban areas. As more attention is given to finding innovative ways of growing food closer to and in cities, it is slowly becoming part of the public vocabulary with urban farms in cities including Amsterdam and Rotterdam. However, for many there is still a distinct separation between production and consumption of the fruit and vegetables bought at the shop. Not much thought is given to where and how these apples, or these oranges were grown simply because there is no need for it when supermarkets will supply close to anything in good condition. Among the people bridging this gap with the aim of reconnecting people with the land are the Amsterdam-based De Stadsgroenteboer team, who will lead our fourth Bootcamp session on Friday 24 May.

They have invited us to spend the afternoon at their 4000 square meter farm in the West of Amsterdam where they will be introducing the concept and philosophy of Community Supported Agriculture and its role in healthy urban food production. Those participating will have the pleasure of meeting the inspiring team behind the project, a chance to get their hands dirty and to later taste the fruits of their labour as a way of learning about community supported agriculture. In anticipation of this session, we spoke to Laura from De Stadsgroenteboer team to get a sense of what students can expect, as well as her ideas around healthy urban living.

Please tell us about your organisation, its inspiration and goals. We are a group people who have teamed up to grow vegetables on a small plot of land of around 4000 square meters in the west of Amsterdam. We try to grow as many kinds of vegetables as possible, currently I think we have around 62 different vegetables and we do everything organically. We are a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, which means we supply vegetables on a weekly basis during harvest season to local subscribing members. The opportunity for this project presented itself when the previous owner moved away and got in touch with two of our current team members about keeping the farm. We had a common dream of growing our own food, so in a sense we inspired each other. We had some previous experience, but not necessarily expertise – I guess that comes with the years – so there has been some trial and error in getting started. Our main goal and inspiration with this project is really to recreate a connection between people and the land.

Without revealing too much about what’s in store, could you tell us what we can expect from your participation in this year’s Green Student Bootcamp Challenge?I won’t reveal too much but students will spend the afternoon with us at the farm, which will involve some activities where they will get to experience the work we do first hand. It will also involve some kind of transformation of food, possibly from our own land. And we hope to introduce everyone to the philosophy and the idea of community supported agriculture so they get an idea of the history, the philosophy and the different styles of CSA that exist. And it will also involve a good deal of fun!

What do you hope participating students will take away from the experience? We would really love it if the experience of practicing agriculture on small scale together with other people inspires them to think differently about food. Especially in terms of its whole lifecycle and its value. On the flip side, it’s also inspiring and exciting for us to involve people in what we do, so I hope they leave with these feelings as well.

How do you see our relationship with nature and with our environment? This is a difficult question, and quite an individual one. I think it is always tricky to say: “this is us and this is nature” because we are all part of one big thing. In this sense I think it is important to phrase the answer in terms of what our role is in nature instead of what is our connection with nature. Because I think what is for us to figure out is how we fit into this big intricate puzzle as opposed to how we relate to the puzzle.

Has your work and/or research changed the way you lead your life? If so, how? Well, currently I’m living the life of a farmer, which is more a lifestyle than a job. You are up with the sun and go to bed early, you are constantly working with your hands and your body. In a way we are also constantly creating things which is very rewarding. I think your priorities change a little bit when you live like this so there has perhaps been a change in the way I lead my life, but more because of the nature of the work than a conscious choice.

What does healthy urban living mean to you? Cities are crazy. There is this constant access to anything you might need and there are endless options. There are midnight shops in case you get hungry, it never gets dark, there is always something to do and there are always people around. It can easily feel frantic and crowded. I think healthy urban living means finding your own path – your own balanced way of living – in which you are content and not at the constant mercy of the hectic pace of the city.

If you’d like to join our cooking-in-nature workshop with De Stadsgroenteboer, please mail us before Wednesday 22 May to book your space: gsbc@greenlivinglab.org

For information on how to join the De Stadsgroenteboer CSA, visit their website: https://www.stadsgroenteboer.nl

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