Field research of urban agricultural systems in the Netherlands

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The Principal’s Go Abroad Fund enabled my travels to Amsterdam in July 2014 to conduct a comprehensive field-study of the Dutch urban agricultural system. Urban agriculture is a concept that is gaining momentum out of the need to shorten food supply chains. By growing, processing and distributing food within a smaller area, the food has a smaller environmental impact and becomes more socially and economically viable for local systems. During my visit, I met with two organisations- UrbaniaHoeve and City Plot.

Healthy herbs by City Plot at Open Coop in the Tolhuistuin, Amsterdam

Healthy herbs by City Plot at Open Coop in the Tolhuistuin, Amsterdam

UrbaniaHoeve is explained as a “social design lab for urban agriculture.” The organisation’s name translates to ‘the city (as a) farmyard’ and has multiple project locations Amsterdam, the Hague and Maastricht. Founder and artistic director Debra Solomon explained the concept of their DemoGarden to me, in-situ, preceding a harvest workday. In Debra’s opinion, the entire public space should be used to grow food. She sees food and food sovereignty as a basic right and quite fervently advocates for action-based research in the field of food systems. I participated in the harvesting of the DemoGarden, which is truly an edible forest. Volunteers are allowed to bring their harvests home, providing free fruit and veg for days!

During my stay in Amsterdam I also met with Suzanne Oommen from City Plot, an organisation that supports people who want to grow their own food regardless of their living situation. Suzanne informed me that urban agriculture is actually a recent trend in Dutch urban design. However, the commitment of the people and policy makers has allowed the success of urban agriculture to quickly accelerate, making the Netherlands one of the global leaders in localised food production. The City Plot projects that I visited were mainly container gardens located within close proximity to cafes. Owners had offered their spaces to City Plot to create edible gardens, conduct research and host workshops in exchange for some of the yield of the harvests. These situations are truly “Farm to Fork” and the quality of food produced proves the advantage of this type of system.

City Plot's project at Open Coop in the Tolhuistuin, Amsterdam

City Plot’s project at Open Coop in the Tolhuistuin, Amsterdam

Scotland’s government has recently announced its plan to make the nation a “Good Food Nation.” I am hoping to be able to adapt the skills and case studies I’ve acquired from this trip to aid Scottish organisations in expanding and enhancing the effectiveness of growing and distributing fresh fruit and veg locally.

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