I was invited to represent TTPermatuin at the Landbouwactiekamp in Den Bosch last weekend to share the story of the project and the design behind the site. The event was held on open land behind an Albert Hein and several social projects. It has been unused for over a decade and the organisation ASEED worked with a local urban agriculture project Graafse Hof of Transfarmers to be able to use the space for 100 or so campers, event tents, an outdoor kitchen and a bicycled powered bar!
I presented a design workshop as well as a Transition Towns workshop, and despite the mass of workshops available at the same time, both our workshops had around 20 participants which was a full house! There were lots of questions, so I was glad we had printed information leaflets (EN & NL). I also took part in the ‘world café’ where I advertised the project and held a permaculture ‘surgery’. It was great to network with other people interested in using permaculture; for instance, I met Marjolein, who wrote a lovely blog: www.tuurlijk.org while studying her Permaculture Design Certificate; in it she followed what she learned and how she built her first garden. I heard about lots of interesting new projects starting up in co-ordination with municipalities, and how the permaculture group in Den Haag have managed to put proposals forward to take over kinderborderij which otherwise have to be closed due to staff cut-backs. Everyone was using permaculture to both heal land and design it to be productive, and one group are planning to go to Greece and use permaculture to directly address social issues by starting urban farms throughout Athens. This project originates from the Greek community in the Netherlands who wish to respond positively to the sad reality that in Athens old people can often be seen searching for food in garbage bins, and children are actually being abandoned at schools because parents are unable to feed them. Our project, new as it is, has already generated information and experience which was helpful to others doing good in their neighbourhood, and this is a powerful energiser.
The Transition Towns workshop turned out to be a brilliant opportunity to network with Transition Towns den Bosch who also presented at the camp. Leidi and other members of TT Den Bosch involved with green spaces have negotiated the use of an overgrown plot belonging to a popular city farm, on the edge of a public park. They are slowly getting familiar with the land and working out what is growing, and how they will develop the space. They are trialling what vegetables and fruits thrive and thinking about their design so they are planning to come over to our demonstration garden to get some ideas. They have the complete opposite growing conditions to the TTPermatuin in Wageningen, but we still had lots to talk about! On Sunday I joined a group from the camp to this new garden and we helped to build a small herb spiral.
All in all it was a fruitful few days with an educational and colourful mix of people from different backgrounds with different approaches to addressing and improving food production and land access issues. It reflected the growing interest in urban open space and how changing times are demanding new responses from municipalities and landowners. The demand for communities to have the use of open space to reconnect with food also needs to be balanced with the role of cities as refuges for native flora and fauna who have no place in ‘the countryside’ due to industrialised farming. We at the TTPermatuin in Wageningen believe permaculture approaches and techniques can help this challenging situation, and we will continue to work on producing results to share and communicate. Good luck to all of you who told me about your projects, we wish you strength and success!