Photo by Rick Gush
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.