Uit Je Eigen Stad City Farm – From Your Own Town
City farming is a growing movement addressing a multitude of modern day problems from food security and transport miles to healthy production techniques and connecting people back with the land.
Somehow we have become so far removed from nature that it was only three years ago that I found out what an onion plant looks like. Whereas this is perhaps not an essential piece of knowledge for my everyday life, it was an eye opener that led me to wonder what other questions I’m not asking.
Uit Je Eigen Stad is an urban farm in the habour area of Rotterdam, an industrial zone and a rather windswept place for a large part of the year. The name means “From Your Own Town” and anyone interested are invited to come along and get an insight into what is involved in growing the produce we eat, try it out in the on-site restaurant or buy ingredients to take home.
Three entrepreneurs are the initiators of the project, bringing to the table a multitude of skills. One has experience in social farms, another a background in real estate and Huibert de Leede, who I met, was a business consultant in a previous life. Smiling, he told met how the aim of the project has always been to “demonstrate that city farming can be profitable”. After two years in operation things are going well but the reality is that hiring out meeting rooms and running the restaurant is what is keeping things afloat for the moment. He continued: “I never wanted to be a restaurateur, yet along with everything else, I am also that now. If that is what it takes to get things going, then so be it.”
With no precedent, Dutch law had no regulations for city farming, a cause of frustration when rules for large-scale agriculture were imposed on the comparatively tiny operation at Uit Je Eigen Stad. After jumping through various hoops it was political goodwill that finally led to the go-ahead.
Plans are afoot to open farms in other major Dutch cities and Huibert explained with a glint in his eye that this time around they may take a different approach: “Perhaps we just go ahead and sort out the regulation along the way”. A hands-on and practical way of not getting too bogged down in bureaucracy.
The produce from the farm is mostly used to supply the on-site restaurant, a converted warehouse turned into a cosy hide-away from the windy outside. With funky design and local food it has proved a hit with Rotterdam residents.
In summer other restaurants in the area also buy stock from the farm and free-range chickens are raised on the premises, both for eggs and meat. It may seem like a hard life for the majority of roosters who are destined for the table within 26 weeks, but compared to the 35 days a regular battery chicken has, cooped up in a cage, it seems like luxury. Aquaponic fish farming where fish are reared in a sustainable and symbiotic environment is also the pipeline and will be operational as of 2014.
If you’re planning a visit to Rotterdam and are interested in how urban farming works, swing by Uit Je Eigen Stad for a meal and a look around. It’s a couple of hours well spent.
If Rotterdam is not on your agenda anytime soon, why not check out a city farm near you. Who knows, you might even learn what an onion plant looks like, if you don’t already!
Uit Je Eigen Stad can be found at 39 Marconistraat, 3029 AG Rotterdam, telephone 010 820 8909. The nearest station is Marconiplein on the A, B & C metro lines.