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Urban Farming in Amsterdam

By Rick Gush, Urban Farm contributor

Friday, July 22, 2011

woman farming in Amsterdam

Photo by Rick Gush

Amsterdam was full of urban gardens and happy people working in them.

Last week, I was in Amsterdam, Netherlands, for two days of meetings with the developer of a game on which I’m working, so my wife and I tacked our summer vacation onto the trip. The weather was great, my wife was a fun travel companion, and I was able to tour all sorts of farms and gardens. I even managed to stumble into an unbelievably cool project: My new partners will be converting an abandoned farm on the edge of the city into a new-style urban farming university. Cool, huh?

Amsterdam's coastal location makes it a lot like Vancouver, British Columbia, — a “banana belt” that allows people here to grow some great gardens. The soil there was really sandy, so there wasn't much need to sift rocks out of the soil, which was a great relief to me.There were a lot of tulip fields and greenhouses, as well as a countless little farms scattered around the edge of the city, too.

About a century ago, the Dutch government gave factory owners big patches of land, which they in turn parceled out to the factory workers so they would all have someplace to grow their food. Many thousands of these gardens still exist.

After a tour of one of these locations, I was amazed at how deluxe the small building was. It was not a rough garden shack, but more like a hip little getaway home. The place I toured had 55 plots and a communal beekeeping facility to insure pollination.

I also toured what seemed like multiple gardens belonging to a big commune. The place was right in the middle of the city and reminded me of what Berkeley probably wanted to become back in the ’60s. There were lots of happy workers busily attending to their various tasks and moving in and out of several-dozen buildings and farm structures.

We’ll see how things work out with the urban-farming university. Listening to “experts” every once in awhile is a good thing, but in the long run, everyone will be responsible for their own farm or garden, and will need to make cultivation decisions themselves.

The only downside to all this is that commuting to Amsterdam might have to happen since my computer-game work there is going quite well. I absolutely hate to ever be away from my idyllic life in Italy, but these opportunities are hard to resist.

Read more of Rick's Favorite Crops »

Give us your opinion on Urban Farming in Amsterdam.
Submit Comment »
Rick, is there a website I can check out that would allow me to find and contact small farms near Amsterdam? I live in California but have been looking into a change and would like to know more of what Amsterdam has to offer as far as jobs and farming.
Thanks
J, San Diego, CA
Posted: 1/17/2012 2:37:05 PM
We need more of these gardens where people and learn about gardening.
Carl, Livermore, CA
Posted: 1/15/2012 12:33:40 PM
Love the report and the concept of an urban farming university. Wish there was something like that here.

The idea of learning from the "experts" and then realizing that you really do have to rely on yourself is not only practical, it's liberating. The fact that I get to choose when, what and where I want to grow is not restrictive in any way.

Thanks for sharing another success story. Good news is always the best news.
Bruce, Las Vegas, NV
Posted: 7/22/2011 7:29:36 AM
Rick, you are a funny guy. You are the only person that I know that is a part of a community garden .... in another country. It does sound like a great concept to be a part of but really in another country? I visited Holland once back in 1970. It was during the time I was stationed in Germany and visited Holland when all the Tulips were in bloom. It was quite amazing to see miles and miles and miles of fields filled with Tulips interspersed with windmills. My first wife and I took the canal tour and saw all the sights in Amsterdam. It was a great experience filled with wonderful memories. I'm sure you will let us know about your return visits to the community garden experiences. Have a great Italian day.
David, Omaha, NE
Posted: 7/22/2011 6:13:20 AM

About the Blogger

Rick Gush

Rick Gush
Rick Gush has long been a staunch organic gardener. While a student at the University of California at Davis he worked at local tomato and sugar beet farms and continued in the agricultural and horticultural industries for many years. A career move in the 1990s led him to design computer games, but no matter how much of a techie he’s become, gardening and farming remain his principal passions.

In 2000, Rick moved to Italy, where he writes to you about his cliff garden and other experiences in Italian urban agriculture.

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