On Saturday, 27th September 25 students joined the ‘Urban Food Production’ excursion to Amsterdam, organzed jointly by RUW, Boerengroep and Advanced Metropolitan Solutions. We visited different inspiring initiatives in the fields of urban sustainability and urban food production. Though, as some participants reflected, the people realizing them were even more inspiring than the projects we visited.
First, Wil and his wife Lisan, volcanic farmers, who started an organic fruit farm near the Schiphol airport, and lets Amsterdam people come and pick the fruits themselves. They even let them eat as they pick, as long as customers ‘declare’ how much they ate. That is what I call ‘trust in mankind’!
Then, we went to the Rondeel, a broilers egg farm of newest conception, all designed around the well-being of the hens. Here we visited the building (round, as the name suggests) and got to know another urban food production idea, the Tosti Fabriek Project. Behind this project is a group of cooks-art school students, plus a student from the Amsterdam University undergraduate program ‘future planet studies’ (sounds great, doesn’t it?). These students embarked, without previous expertise, in the production of ALL ingredients of 1000 ham-cheese toasts, on a small piece of industrial land in Amsterdam.
Last, we went to De Ceuvel, a heavily polluted ex-wharf. A group of students and professionals from the company Metabolic teamed up to restore the liveability of this peculiar corner of Amsterdam, using halophytes plants, which selectively take up and store in their tissues metals such as lead, aluminium and cadmium. The project’s core consists of a small experimental clean-tech urban village. Old house boats, floating like Noah arches above the disaster of a polluted ground, are rented as ateliers for companies. The people also set up a lovely café all built with waste stream materials (including the base of a crane and some old Amsterdam docks..).
What did I learn from these projects? I see how they strike me as being daring and confident of their idea. None of these people waited for a feasibility study to be approved before starting. All of them were taking risks and pursuing the design, or principle, of their idea, instead of sacrificing design and principles to feasibility. Yet, their way of thinking seemed nothing short of ‘academic’ to me.
Some of us, when the excursion was coming to an end, reflected that Wageningen is sometimes missing the hands-on and idealistic experimentation. Einstein’s warning, that ‘we cannot solve our problems by using the same thinking we used when we created them”, is easier said than done. And yet, that spark of subversion against the status quo will bring you, unlike many feasibility studies, close to a good idea.
For a full photo overview, click here!