Fertile City: Bring the garden to the people
Community food gardeners dream of green abundance that nourishes the city and its residents. This blog article is the fourth and final on a series that shares the courageous dreams (and practices!) of neighborhood food gardens to regenerate community foodscapes in and around Amsterdam. The dreams are harvested from 16 community evaluations that happened with 16 different gardens. Four gardens in Oost share how some of these dreams have already sprouted. May you be inspired by their great practices and try to grow more dream relationships of solidarity and reciprocity.
Dreams of abundance and conviviality
Community food gardeners dream of harmonizing native and wild plants with vegetables. They dream of cultivating an abundance of plants to share with neighbours. Green hubs in their neighbourhoods where people can connect with the slower and wiser ways. They dream of gardens that are open and inviting to all, with social infrastructure to cook wholesome meals together. Community food gardens dream of supporting each other and exchanging; taking care of nurseries and making sanctuaries for plants and people to regain vibrance and nourish their communities.
A thread of four community gardens weaving plant-people solidarity across district Oost
Dreams made real: the fruits of four gardens
In district (stadsdeel) Oost four gardens are already harvesting the fruits of ‘inter-garden’ cooperation. This year Hoektuin hosted a seed and seedling exchange for the locality. Gardeners came together and shared plant materials and advice for this year’s growing season. With the annual “Geveltuin Dag” being cancelled, the event was a valuable intervention providing opportunities for neighbors and gardeners to befriend and informally propose future collaborations.
Such gatherings made possible the inauguration of a neighbourhood seed and seedling library during the annual Farmsterdammer event. The garden team applied for ‘seed funding’ from the Oost Begroot (East Budget), a form of participatory budgeting, and the neighbours voted in favour. Now neighbous can ‘borrow’ seeds, plants and even preserves with an intention to restore the library with the next generation of seeds and cuttings.
Neighborhood seed & seedling library, Hoektuin, Stadsdeel Oost
The Hoektuin demonstrates how much social and ecological values can be birthed in a tiny edible greenspace. The long-term building of organic material and a selection of indigenous herbs and wild plants means there is an abundance of biodiversity and herbal teas to share without back breaking work. The garden is open to all and known by many neighbours who are greeted and invited to tea. Stories are shared across generations and cultures and the social fabric of the neighbourhood becomes carefully intertwined and compassionate to each other’s needs.
The River of Herbs is also a great inspiration for remembering the uses and benefits of almost forgotten herbs to human and environmental health. The herb gardens provide a portal to get to know plants and fungi, that grow abundantly in Amsterdam, and experience how they contribute to personal and community wellbeing. The garden has become a centre of learning where intimate connections are being unearthed with wilder green areas in the city. It’s now possible to join foraging and crafting courses as well as urban herbology apprenticeships.
Complementing, herbal tea drinking and nourishing neighbourhood dialogues is the making of infrastructure to share meals together. Both Buurttuin Oost Indisch Groen and Anna’s Tuin & Ruigte excel in this domain with the eco-building of rainproof pizza ovens and cooking spaces in their gardens. After collective gardening sessions, they harvest vegetables and herbs from the gardens and combine with organic grains and flours, often sourced from food coops, to make delicious community meals.
Both gardens are also acting as sanctuaries or nurseries for plants. Oost Indisch Groen initiated a scheme where neighbours can exchange paving stones from their private gardens for seedlings to plant in their newly liberated soils. Anna’s Tuin & Ruigte became a temporary refuge space for thousands of pear trees that were later adopted by citizens across the city. Safe spaces are being made for saplings to grow strong and play important roles in the regeneration of landscapes, such as Oosterwold, historically scarred by industrial agriculture and monocultural thinking.
Not only are the gardens havens for rare and endangered varieties and species of plant and animal life they are also havens for people to recover from the psychological ills of modernity, such as burnout, anxiety, loneliness and depression. The gardens are spaces to reconnect to nature, work pleasantly in teams and re-socialise. All four gardens are also places where we can relearn and restore slower and wiser ways of Earth-based living that are the legacies of our common ancestors.
The deep wish to learn and share knowledge is something clearly shared by all the gardens and is a source of unification and cooperation. The MoTuin project is an inspiring manifestation of this wish from which a neighborhood Green Library was established within a Broedplaats (breeding ground) close to Hoektuin. Anna’s Tuin & Ruimte hold a weekly study group on permaculture facilitating restoration and reproduction of biodiverse ecosystems and community food. The gardens themselves are an endless spring of curiosity, applied learning and creative experimentation. If you can’t bring people to a neighbourhood food garden, bring the garden to the people!
A mobile garden (MoTuin) with a fruit tree, tea kettle, soup hob and irrigation system
On behalf of the gardeners, we use the blog article to give a special thanks to Eelco for contributing to the care of all four gardens. For promoting friendship, learning and inspiration between the gardens as well as knowledge and plant material exchanges. We now have a great taste of what’s possible when different gardens connect in a locality. May we connect and collaborate further to regenerate community foodscapes throughout Amsterdam and beyond.