A forest where you go by bike or car for vegetables, fruit and nuts. That in a nutshell is the idea of a Zwolle brush forest. Otto Veerman (37) and Bram Piersma (36) are eager to open a forest of approximately six hectares in Zwolle. “As long as the food forest doesn’t end up in people’s backyards, everyone responds enthusiastically.”
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The idea for a Zwolle food forest on a piece of land the size of about ten football pitches has been around for some time. The location does not matter to Bram and Otto. “As long as it’s on the outskirts of town,” says Bram. “We are in dialogue with the municipality about locations. A possible location designated by the municipality is Spoolde.”
Not in your own backyard
Otto and Bram have been talking to the municipality and the neighborhood about Spoolde for some time. One of the problems: People don’t prefer to have a food forest close to their home, says Bram. “You sometimes hear that people don’t want the forest in their backyard because their view changes. They often overlook farmland, but it is so planted with trees and shrubs. Then you have a different view in 25 years. As long as the food forest does not end up in people’s backyards, everyone reacts enthusiastically.”
Other possible locations are agricultural land south of Berkum and areas in Stadshagen. According to the gentlemen, the residents react positively, but the question is what the municipality wants with the land in the future. “Maybe they will use it for housing.”
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More and more food forests
There are more and more food forests in the Netherlands. There are now more than a hundred. You will also find a few near Zwolle, such as in Heino, Olst-Wijhe, Vaassen and Dronten. Other locations are a great source of inspiration for Bram and Otto. “We regularly visit other food forests to see how they are doing there, to look at the business models and what mistakes we can learn from.”
According to Bram, a common mistake in a food forest is that people plant too quickly. “Sometimes, for example, trees are planted at the wrong time of the year. For example, in spring, while the ideal month is November. If you do it wrong, you have a much higher chance of failure. Good preparation and phased planting is therefore very important.”
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Cycling to the food forest
In the food forest that Otto and Bram have in mind, vegetables, fruit and nuts are grown for the residents of Zwolle. “So we can supply people with fresh food directly without intermediaries. People can get nice things from us by bike or car.”
There will be a free and paid part. The free available part is ‘thought more like a creation, with a lush piece of nature’. 200 to 300 kinds of food such as apple, pear, fruit and cherry are planted here. “And also crazy flavors, such as Szechuan pepper and subtropical fruits, which we are not yet very familiar with in the Netherlands.”
For subscription holders
There will also be a private section, intended for season ticket holders. They can choose from thirty types of food. “It’s more standardized food that you also find in the supermarket.” In addition to getting food, tours and workshops are also given, and the high schools get classes here, that’s the plan.
The love of a food forest
Otto is originally a chef and applied ecologist. “The combination of nature, agriculture and food is perfect for him for the food forest,” says Bram about Otto’s passion. “Otto started the project with a food forest a few years ago during his graduation internship.” Bram is himself a medical biologist. “I have always had a fascination with small farming. I always had a kitchen garden and I did a lot of healthy cooking. When I came across the food forest concept a few years ago, I dug into it.”
Opening? Maybe next November
The gentlemen avoided a cautious opening date for the food forest. “At the beginning we mentioned a date, but we notice that it is taking longer than expected. If you put a date out in public and it doesn’t work out, that’s just a shame. So we stopped doing that. Each new planting season is included. It won’t work in November, maybe next November. That’s the next option.”
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A lot of attention
In any case, there is no lack of interest in a Zwolle brush forest. More than 800 people follow the plans on Instagram and more than 300 people have signed up for the newsletter, says Bram. “There is also a petition to create support for the food forest. It has already been signed almost 500 times.” The petition will probably be submitted to the municipality this year.