Om du Tuin, The Netherlands

 
 
 

I took an overnight bus from Paris to Amsterdam and arrived in the city early in the morning. From there I took another train and bus and walked a few kilometers to find my way to Om du Tuin, a small CSA farm near Amersfoort. The October air was crisp as I walked, the sun bright and the forests cool. The farm is about 3 acres and supports more than 30 members as well as some wholesaling to local restaurants. It’s run by a husband and wife team, Kees and Maria and they live on the property with their 2 children. The two of them split time between taking care of the farm and taking care of the kids and most evenings in the house are spent fermenting, canning and drying produce for the winter. They also participate in the WWOOF program for extra labor and when I arrived they had one WWOOFer from Italy that had been working with them for several months. WWOOF, for those of you that don’t know, stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms, workers participate by working on the farm for anywhere from a few days to a few months and are provided room and board for their labors. There are farms participating in this program all over the world and it can be a great resource for folks that are interested in learning more about agriculture.

 

Maria started her first farm on a different property, but had to leave due to neighbor complaints about tractor noise and green house aesthetics. That farm was also a CSA with a restaurant wholesale element and Kees, a chef at the time, was one of her best customers. They fell in love and decided to go into business together. They spent a year looking for new land and settled here at Om du Tuin a few years ago. They are still waiting for their EU organic certification on the new land, a delay caused by the neighbor spraying herbicide has set them back another year. Maria loves to concentrate on “strange” vegetables and experiments with new and interesting varietals every year. I felt as if we were kindred spirits in that respect and I really enjoyed seeing all of the different fruits and vegetables, many of which I had never heard of before. There were Pichuberries, a sweet tomatillo type vegetable and Olive cucumbers, a strange looking cucumber with a spongy center and strong cucumber scent among many other extraordinary and wonderful things. Much of the work on the farm is done by hand with little tractor work besides primary cultivation and bed prep.
I stayed at the farm for about a week, harvesting for the most part. Fall bounty on the farm consisted of a plethora of different greens, winter squash, beans, root vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, flowers and potatoes. Om du Tuin doesn’t grow much in terms of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, the weather in that region being too cool to grow these crops reliably without a hoop house. However, the season, though cool is long and they are able to produce food almost year round. After work each day I went walking in the forests surrounding, looking for mushrooms and admiring the local scenery.

 
 
I had the opportunity to interview Kees and Maria about their thoughts on the current food system in The Netherlands and I have copied the interview below.
 
 

Why did you choose sustainable agriculture and what was your journey to get there?

My vision on how we should act in the world is based on the belief that we are part of nature, and should work together with it. If you work against, you will always get troubles back, to deal with again. Our ideal system is one where we work together to achieve a resilience. None of us are able to know everything, when we try to overrule 'nature', we will always be a fighting and creating a non- resilient system. Our agricultural science and knowledge is valuable, but ultimately we need to get more insight on how to work together with nature.

 
My journey here started when I found out there were poisons used in potato production. I was astonished and began to buy all organic produce. Eventually I found it too difficult to go to all of the shops required to find enough organic food so I began to grow my own. In my studies, I thought and read a lot about the ethics and philosophy of food. I tried to determine my opinion on these things, something that is still an ongoing process for me. I see many new things happening but they all seem to have the same underlying problems, fighting symptoms of a bad system. I think there will be changes that will bring us further in our development, it may take a long time but I think we will reach the next stage.
 

What do you think of the current food system in your country?

I think it’s really bad, the normal system anyway. Generally the food is made by people who are not interested enough in healthy, tasty food, they are too interested in science and economics. They worry about how to use nonfood products to make food “better”, replacing healthy, expensive ingredients with cheap artificial ones that bring big health risks. In vegetable production, the use of chemicals is fighting against the natural processes and this is never the best way. People are too focused on making money and not focused on taste and health.
 
 

What do you think will be the future of food in your country? Do you see a change coming?

Of course! There are a lot of movements within the country that are very good. These are working outside the “normal” system. It gives me hope that people are becoming more aware of the problems within our food system and that they can personally have an impact. By buying local, organic food they can help to support these initiatives. For the future, I don’t know if things will really systemically change soon. I think we need a real paradigm shift first. Our current system is making problems in every aspect of our society. We need to change the way that we deal with each other, our system should be based in cooperation. People fight back when they are ruled by an over powering system and we are left with something very un-sustainable. I notice that when people are confronted with a problem, they often grab hold of old patterns and solutions. Therefore it is not enough to just treat animals fairly and stop using poisons in our food production. We need a change in our underlying world view. People need to go back and think about what we really need in the world, their own ethics and morals. Education in ethics and philosophy is the start and almost totally absent in our current system. These paradigm shifts are a subtle process and I believe it is already happening. We need people with this type of education to enter the political system and then we may see a big difference.

Are you concerned about how climate change may affect your business/ farm in the future?

I don’t' worry about climate change. I think there's no use in worrying. In agriculture you never know what the new season will bring, that is one of the things I like about it. I'm not too afraid for change, if things are not going ok, if we don’t manage, then we are not on the right place anymore and should find something/ somewhere else to do it. Dealing with problems is part of the game.

Who do you hope will inherit what you have started?

Of course it will be painful to say goodbye, but I think it would soothe me if I knew that I did inspire some people along the way. Maybe someone could take our vision on agriculture and practice with them. They could mix it with theirs to make new, better practices. I also believe that it would be best if land that has once been farmed organically will be organic forever. People should be forbidden to develop it.
 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *