This past summer, The[Dinner]Lab received funding from the University of Edinburgh Principal’s Go Abroad Fund to conduct field research in the Netherlands, analysing and learning from the country’s urban agriculture programme. Urban agriculture is a concept that is gaining momentum out of the need to shorten food supply chains within cities. By growing, processing and distributing food within the locality of the city, food has a smaller environmental impact and becomes more socially and economically viable. In the Netherlands, a successful urban agriculture system entails adapting to poor soil conditions and limited space.
During our visit, we met with UrbaniaHoeve and City Plot, just two of the myriad Dutch urban agriculture organisations paving the way for a more sustainable future of food. Explained as a “social design lab for urban agriculture,” UrbaniaHoeve literally translates to ‘the city (as a) farmyard’ and has multiple project locations in Amsterdam, the Hague and Maastricht. Founder and artistic director Debra Solomon believes that the entirety of public space should be used to grow food. She sees food and food sovereignty as a basic right and quite fervently advocates for action-based research in the field of food systems. We visited DemoGarden, an edible forest located in Amsterdam-Noord, participating in one of their many summer harvests. The garden welcomes volunteers to help with maintenance; volunteers in return are allowed to bring home fresh fruit and vegetables for no cost.
City Plot, an organisation based in Amsterdam and Berlin, supports people who want to grow their own food regardless of their living situation. Many of the City Plot projects in Amsterdam are container gardens located within close proximity to cafes. Owners had offered their spaces to City Plot to create edible gardens, conduct research and host workshops in exchange for some of the yield of the gardens’ harvests. These situations are truly “Farm to Fork” and the quality of food produced proves the advantage of this type of system.
The[Dinner]Lab urban agriculture research strand emerged alongside the Scottish government announcing their “Good Food Nation” policy in June 2014. The “Good Food Nation” policy addresses the future of food and drink in Scotland, with hopes of providing nutritious, fresh and environmentally sustainable food for all socioeconomic groups.
We will be adapting research from the UrbaniaHoeve and City Plot visits into Case Studies for our website in the weeks to come, and analysing how to adapt these models for a Scottish context.