De Pluimerije in Darp is a kitchen garden for everyone

Jan-Jaap and Marjolein Bakker have been working on their social food garden ‘De Pluimerije’ for almost two years now. Many now know how to find their way to the garden on Busselterweg for fresh vegetables.

“We’ve grown quite a bit,” says Marjolein. “We started with a large vegetable garden, which has now doubled in size, and we now have a permanent group of around twenty volunteers who come to help every week on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday morning. I think it is important that the low threshold remains guaranteed. Everyone who comes is welcome, but it should not be a duty for the volunteers. We will not get carried away by growth, the atmosphere must remain good. The mutual atmosphere is now very good. We don’t want to be a production garden, but a public garden.”

“Of course we have our agreements, we deliver vegetables weekly to people who have a subscription with us and to local catering. It is harvested every Thursday morning. Every Monday morning I send an email to our customers which vegetables they can expect this week. Sometimes I add a recipe, especially for unfamiliar or ‘forgotten’ vegetables. For example, this week we have leafy broccoli, or Spigariello. Mega-popular in Italy, but unknown here. In fact, I always look for the widest possible variety of vegetables. We have built special vegetable beds for the restaurant industry, on which the pre-arranged vegetables are grown. In the garden, we work according to the principles of permaculture: we move with the seasons, we only use organic seeds and compost and no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.” The garden is arranged in such a way that it can be picked throughout the season. There is also a standard orchard with old fruit varieties and a flower field.

Cooperation with the Food Bank

A foundation has now been created: the De Pluimerije Food Garden Foundation. “Because we have a lot of plans, some of which have now been drawn up. Such as the collaboration with Havelte Food Bank. Food bank packages often contain too few fresh items. By giving the Food Bank’s customers the opportunity to pick their vegetables here for free or for a small fee, healthy and sustainable food is also available to people on a tight budget. In addition, it is just nice to work in the open, and you meet new or familiar people.”

“Through the Food Bank and Westerveld municipality’s exercise trainers, people are referred to us to come and get fresh vegetables. However, there is also a growing group of people who do not come to the Food Bank, but who are having a hard time financially. We would also like to reach that group. I noticed that the threshold is very high, but people really don’t need to worry, it’s not clear here which group you belong to. No one gets a stamp. The group of volunteers and others who come to help harvest is mixed. I think it’s great to see that there really is a connection. People start talking to each other, about vegetables for example. The social aspect is also very important to us. We always go out and drink coffee after work.”

‘Friendly and helpful’

One of the people who comes to pick at no cost is Wilma from Havelte. How does she like to come to the garden and does she like it? “I thought it was very exciting at first, also to admit that I am not that broad. Now it’s an escape. I feel very welcome. And it’s also nice to meet the same people every time. The people in the garden are all very friendly and helpful. So I like it very much. It saves me a lot financially and in my opinion it also helps me with my health. The vegetable is so honest, so clean and so tasty. I eat a lot more vegetables now. Even vegetables I had never heard of before!”

Miralda also regularly helps in the garden. “I completely relax in the garden. It gives me satisfaction to get in touch with nature; I like plants and can learn a lot about the different kinds of vegetables and spices. They are very fresh, so very good for the body and especially for the mind. Making friends and getting to know people with a good cup of coffee. I really enjoy planting and harvesting myself and watching the plants grow. I find peace in Pluimerije and especially with lovely people around me. Marjolein is very sweet and empathetic.”

Waiting list

There is a waiting list for this season, both for subscriptions and for people who can come and get vegetables through the municipality or the Food Bank. “We adapted the garden to the expected number of users at the beginning of the season,” explains Marjolein. “But people can already register for next season, so I know what to expect in terms of volume. The customers can come and get fresh vegetables every week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, because then there are people working in the garden who can help if necessary.”

The garden is already twice as big this summer as it was in 2021, and Marjolein might want to expand a bit next season. “And a small greenhouse would also be useful for, for example, tomatoes and cucumbers and to be able to extend the season a little. This is truly a seasonal garden. We start sowing in March and the first vegetables can be harvested in mid-May. The season lasts until around October.”

New volunteers are very welcome. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot or little experience with kitchen gardening. Having fun together is the most important thing. You can register as vegetables and/or as a volunteer via the email address info@stichtingdepluimerije.nl

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