This season, my sister bought two ‘harvest shares’ in a growing coop in Haarlem. Coop is probably not the exact definition, but basically you buy the rights for a season (May-October) of vegetables. Two shares obviously gets you twice the quantity.
As she is on holidays, we have to take over the duties of getting the vegetables. Unlike some of the vegetable programs in Ottawa, we actually have to harvest the veggies ourselves.
So Friday afternoon, we jumped on the bikes and cycled the few kilometers to the outskirts of Haarlem. The most direct route leads us more or less through downtown, so we first stopped at the Botermarkt square for the weekly Ecomarket. It wasn’t much of an affair but we did find ecological stroopwafels.
On to the harvest chores at Stadstuinderij WTG (Western Horticulture Area). The area is 2.3 hectares (roughly 5 acres). It is an initiative of a De Nieuwe Akker foundation, Erik de Keulenaar (grower), the Haarlem government, long term care facility ‘De Blinkert’ and the Demmers family. Intensive biodynamic farming so close to a city is unique in the Netherlands. It is a nice solution for an area that has to stay open for sight lines and for sustainable land use.
Erik runs the operation with a group of volunteers; the customers who own a harvest share have input in the planting and seed plan. By the time a crop is ready to harvest, you will receive an email and you can show up and harvest. A blackboard at the entrance will tell you what you can take. Orange flags in the field will tell you where the crops of the week are, for example, 2 leeks, 6 onions, 6 tomatoes, 2 zucchini and ‘a few strawberries in passing’.
You are also asked to help weeding if you have a spare hour. Unfortunately the weeds appear to grow faster than the vegetables so once in a while some vegetables have to be plowed under.
For the long term care facility, it was a long-cherished wish coming true. For years, the facility wanted to have some kind of a farm or a horticulture facility to stimulate clients to stay in active and be outside. Results from another project showed that people with a disability enjoy the activities. Besides the labour, the Blinkert wants to use the products of the land in the restaurant and in group living kitchens.
The farm not only has vegetables, but also flowers, a rabbit and chickens (not for consumption) and two ponies. It looks like a very social affair, with the volunteers having lunch together. Here are photos for an impression.
If you want to kow more, here is the website of De Nieuwe Akker: https://denieuweakker.nl (Google Translate does a pretty good job)