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.
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.
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.