Food and nutrition are literally and figuratively close to our hearts. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Dutch consumer eats away almost 20 m2 of Amazon jungle every year, making it the largest Amazon glutton in Europe. We are faced with a task that is as complex as it is necessary: achieving a sustainable food system that does not lay claim to valuable land, soil, water, fossil energy and other raw materials.
The CK3 project is carried out amongst the trees in what was the first Tuinbouwschool (Horticultural school) of the Netherlands. The once famous school is now overgrown and in a state of disrepair. The location, now part of the UNESCO world heritage list is home to many interesting characters and local entrepreneurs, all busy contributing to the vitality of the place. These are some of the people involved in the gardens first Korte Keten (short chain).
Dieneke van Raalte is a regular customer in the French garden cafe, a past student and author of numerous horticultural books. Seeing the greenhouse so pathetic and sad looking is deeply upsetting. She recounts the cultivation of the most beautiful and exotic roses there, an authentic wonder. For her, being able to see the space be reused to grow food that is then crafted into a tasty dish gives her hope for a more positive future.
Esther Viool runs ‘De Franse Tuin cafe’ in the French gardens of the Tuinbouwschool. She ran cafés in and around Amsterdam for over 20 years. As a hobbyist conservationist, she knows better than most the effect that the current agricultural model has on the environment. For her, being brought into the complexity of producing food is an exciting challenge. It is causing her to think differently about the kinds of dishes she’s serving as the seasons and vegetables available create new creative constraints.
Rob has a long history of innovating with food in the Netherlands, from computational models to revolutionary brands such as the Vegetarische Slager. His interest in this project lies with co-creating with the community in order to raise awareness and conversations about how our food is produced. Frederiksoord is an ideal community as the larger project context in the horticultural school is about inclusivity, healthcare and local entrepreneurship.
The Greenhouse coordinator
Martin Klinkenberg is a retired civil engineer who has helped build dikes, tunnels and bridges all over the Netherlands. He has found a deep meaning in the garden. He helps maintain the greenhouse and ensures that the plants are watered, the chickens are fed and that crops are harvested on time. Organisational science is in his nature, and it shows. For anybody interested in helping with the project he is more than happy to find a suitable task for them to do.
The Garden Boss
Mieke leads the voluntary efforts in the garden. Her contribution to the CK3 project comes in the form of helping convert the green waste from the garden into healthy soil that can be used to grow crops. For Mieke, cultivating healthy soil is key to maintaining the garden.
Throughout the research process both Kim and Joshua explored every possible configuration of greenhouse; from walipinis to chinese greenhouses and all the way up to soap bubble insulated structures. Their conclusion was that the future of greenhouses is uncertain. When it comes down to it, greenhouses are incredibly costly to run with heating and cooling being the biggest loss. With rising gas prices and material costs, the true cost accounting time has arrived. For the industry to survive, it will need answers about how to better leverage the natural environment, the seasons and the only thing that is free in the Netherlands; the sun.
- Keep it simple: Social innovation projects often end up missing the point and designing the bike-shed. It’s always important to focus on the core of the project and keeping it as simple as possible as complexity will always rear its ugly head.
- Co-creation is mostly patient listening: Experts might disagree and insist on post-it notes and strict methodologies but more often than not, the best insights comes from listening to people after they’ve had some time to reflect.
- Just start: Discussions, meetings and planning can often stand in the way of the realisation of the project. An important learning has been to get out of the mind and into the hands, even if it’s only a small experiment.
- Why wasn’t I consulted: Stakeholders have stakes which they can stab you with, so it’s always important to keep everyone in the loop, even if it’s only an update. A stakeholder who feels out of the loop has the potential to completely derail a project, so it’s important to do the maintenance work so that everybody feels involved.