Wednesday was Earth Day and a total of 5 projects were met throughout Groningen.
The first was RKZ, a cooperative which had squatted a disused hospital in the 1970’s before gaining an agreement on use and now housed a total of 250 residents who were responsible for the maintenance of the buildings, mixed employment opportunities on site and creating small scale gardens to partially produce for their restaurant on site. The gardens were were small in comparison to the number of residents but at least showed food in urban settings as half the population of the world now live in cities. The learners saw biodiversity in a small area with fruits trees, shrubs and raised individual plots. A family of motherless lambs also had their city retreat where they grow before returning to the food chain.There were bees there as well and the learners were informed that actually now in the Netherlands (and in other cities too) bees are finding more nutrition and variety in cities than in the country areas perhaps as a result of crop spraying or indeed vast mono-cultures which are a desert for bio-diversity. It has become quite a site in Amsterdam for example to see bees buzzing in high density human populations and city honey is becoming popular. Many small scale producers will not part with their precious honey for love nor money, but only take what they need for personal use-an interesting idea for the future of food-locally based superfood scarcity?
Next visit was to the inspirational GRUNO Garden where learners met Barbara Houtman who is the driving force behind the project. She has created a community garden and in doing so has seen first hand how gardens bring people together who would never otherwise meet each other in the city. Barbara spoke movingly of older people who, if it were not for the garden, which gave them a sense of connection, they would not leave their apartment. Barbara told them that the plans were to demolish the garden in the future but she shared her hope that her group would be able to meet with the powers that be to save their garden, to put people back into the picture. A very positive and inspiring woman who is dedicated to growing networks in the community as much as food and with over 250 residents involved in the project, it looks like they have galvanised local action to grow food in an urban community setting.
The next example was a very interesting visit to Michiel Coesel, a lone ranger if ever there was one. He works alone to create an edible, ecological garden in Goeman Borgesiusstraat. With everything from Figs to Fungi in a tiny space, he has really set his neighbourhood a crawling with the addition of quirky sculptures and periscopes to see nature from different angles. He is responsible for the grounds maintenance but I wonder if his gifts and talents are fully appreciated, as in every corner and crevice, the light touch was seen. As the apartments were set in the backdrop of a forest park, he really encouraged nature to run right up and onto the buildings with twiggy additions here and there.
Gift Foundation/Noodhelp Netherlands
Lucia Amaya addressed the learners after lunch and introduced us to her work. A buddhist nun, she has set up the Gift Foundation, now called Noodhelp Nederlands as a response to the economic crisis. Her words moved and inspired the learners who were reminded that the recession is really only taking a foot hold now. Her work has spread throughout and there are now communities all over the Netherlands offering support to those in need in their locality. She has started a revolution in loving and gifting energy and she led a crystal planting ritual afterwards in the final place we visited, the BioToop. In the bramentuin (reclaimed bramble garden), where an apple tree has found its third and hopefully final home, the learners gathered in a newly created herb circle to bless the work and the garden. Time for tea and warm waffles thanks to Samson and Ruben, the Gardiners -a very welcome end to the day.
Raw Bonbon making
Back at home in Uelenspieghel, Danielle, raw food chef, gave a demonstration in bon bon making. One word-yummy. Recipes are on the recipe page.