Just north of the campus you’ll find the Creative Community Garden, a new collective garden where Wageningen students are experimenting to their hearts’ content with exotic crops and ecological methods. Resource took a look.
Little black dots cover the stalks of the beanpole, the lowest flowers are shrivelled. Greenfly. Jeroen Postma isn’t worried about it. The beans lure the greenfly to the edge of the field, which saves other plants. Besides, the ecological deterrent is on its way. He points to a strange orange and black bug, the larva of the ladybird. ‘Give them a little bit of time, and they’ll simply arrive and eat the greenfly.’
Smart planting, ecological deterrents: the hallmarks of the gardening style being applied in the Creative Community Garden. The garden is just six months old but already there’s so much to see on the site, which is almost as large as two football pitches. The entrance archway of woven willow branches, for example, the woodland maze and, of course, the vegetable gardens where students can grow their own herbs and vegetables.
The project got underway in December of last year. Former student Jeroen Postma had just withdrawn from another project that aimed to develop an ‘edible academic garden’ on the campus. Impossible to make happen, as it turned out. Postma was still wrestling with his disappointment when Hans Janssen of De Hooge Born contacted him. He told Jeroen about a project initiated by Alterra, welfare organization Solidez, and the municipality that aimed to create an edible Wage-ningen landscape. Derelict pieces of land would be transformed into gardens where residents could meet one another and practise urban agriculture. The Hooge Born had a site available, the former ‘healing garden’, where a training centre could be set up. Did Jeroen want to help?
He did. He gathered together a group of people, former Wageningen students, and made a start. Today, the garden is run by nine active members with the support of some 50 volunteers. The group is inspired by agro-ecology and permaculture. They use no disease and pest control agents or artificial fertilizer, but apply a considerable amount of ingenuity.
Six months on the first mange-touts are ready for harvesting and chickens are pecking about in the mown grass. A spiral garden has been made where keen gardeners are renting small plots of land to grow their own vegetables. Someone is growing lettuce and carrots for their own consumption, while someone else is experimenting with unusual crops like the purple potatoes known as French Truffles and black maize from Mexico. A depression in the top of a hillock is covered with transparent plastic and is acting as an effective greenhouse. A caravan serves as a tool shed, and as a meeting room when it rains.
This garden is intended to show how food can be produced communally, explains Postma. One of the greatest challenges, in his eyes, is to preserve the group’s energy and dynamism. That’s why he is following the Dragon Dreaming model. ‘Many group projects limit themselves to making and executing plans. That leaves little scope for the ambitions of the members nor appreciation of their efforts. We start with dreams: we close our eyes and describe what we see before us on this land. In this way, we harmonize our ambitions and create a shared dream. At the end of the day we celebrate the completion of our work. We bake pizzas, bread and vegetable dishes in the wood-fired oven we built ourselves. That’s how we keep it enjoyable, and enjoyment keeps a group of people together.’
As well as being a gardener, Postma is also an independent student coach and he counsels students who are dealing with personal issues. Occasionally, he brings them to the garden. ‘When you lose your sense of your place on earth for a while, it can help to work in the open air with plants and soil. This is somewhere you can recharge your batteries and achieve balance.’
Website Creative Community Garden: www.creativecommunitygarden.com