‘Don’t ever give up, make your dream reality by sharing it and telling it to all the people you know!’
With a broken heart, Joris Arends was sitting in an old pub in Amsterdam, roughly two years ago, when he decided to change it all. He threw his money on the floor and started a moneyless life. Joris dived into the world of poetry and found the road towards his big passion: living together with nature as gardener.
Joris Arends (25) is working at the Eemlandhoeve for a year now, a beautiful farm in Bunschoten, close to Amersfoort in the Netherlands. Farmer Jan Huijgen gave him a thousand square meter garden, where Joris is now growing all kinds of tasty foodies: ‘All kinds of legumes, lettuce, carrots, onions, beets, ten kinds of cabbage turnip and five kinds of leafy cabbage. I also have Jerusalem artichoke, parsnips and scorzonera – people used to eat that before the potato was introduced in the Netherlands; and they still do now, of course, as a delicious alternative! Together with another passionate gardener, Joris also works in a permaculture garden. Moreover, he has a greenhouse where he often goes and sees how the young lettuce is growing. ‘I sew them at different times so I can see the growing process. It’s wonderful to see!’ The harvest from the garden is currently used to provide a delicious healthy meal to the guests and volunteers at the Eemlandhoeve farm. In the future Joris plans to sell his harvest at markets and to give workshops in the garden.
Joris himself has the dream to start up his own farm together with volunteers and share the food with the less fortunate. Together with those people, he’d like to start gardening and cooking projects in order to reconnect people again with nature and food. Care and connection are two very important ideals of this young, passionate gardener: ‘That sweet taste of giving – doing something creative, you don’t need any money for it really. It’s all about hospitality, sharing with one another.’ Joris is searching for that interconnectedness with other people, with nature and his own garden – where you can often find him meditating. ‘Especially on a deep psychological lever, the Western people are heavily damaged and they make it themselves very hard to truly be who they are. The garden, for me, is a place where I can be myself and where I can share my vision on life with the outside world, via the distribution of the harvest, by receiving guests and by working together with volunteers.
THE CHALLENGE. The challenge to start gardening in the Netherlands, where prices of land are extremely high, wasn’t difficult to overcome for Joris with his creative and optimistic attitude. ‘When you have an idea, you should go for it, work on it. Don’t ever give up, make your dream reality by sharing it and telling it to all the people you know – just go for it.’ In this way, he obtained his beautiful vegetable garden! With the idea in mind to ‘Practice what you preach’, Joris read an article in the newspapers about the Eemlandhoeve. Working with nature was something that strongly attracted him and that’s how his dream became real. He started to volunteer at the farm – he hardly had any knowledge on gardening. ‘I just really have my intuition guiding me, with a lot of trial and error.’ Currently, he lives in a caravan on the farm as manager of the vegetable garden.
And in that garden, he does find many challenges. ‘I especially have troubles with the mice and pigeons in the garden, but then a neighbour of mine told me he already saw a stoat.’ Also some crops were covered with lice. ‘But I could see whole swarms of insects, who were eating those lie. You see – you just need to be patient and nature will find its own balance.’
But not all goes off without a hitch obviously. One challenge that Joris is struggling with, is the continuity of the people around him. Volunteers in the garden are there often only temporarily – they come and go, often they are searching for ways to obtain some knowledge and skills and they end up here for a while. ‘It would be really great if there would be a steady group here that will work along for at least 4 years or so. That’s really not the case right now.’ Joris is familiar with WWOOF and Couchsurfing. The farmer Jan also had some interns, even from abroad. He as well thinks it would be a great idea if farmers would more often make a little piece of land available for the young generation. But maybe, as being a ‘future farmer’ you should then first come up with a business plan or something like that. The young generation should start small anyway, according to Joris. For his own future farm, preferably close to the city, he would first get into contact with the consumers and he would focus especially on people with children. ‘Parents are always more concerned about healthy food without any artificial chemicals. Also put effort in culture around it, peripheral activities etc. But start small and build it up step by step.’ One crucial point here is to always keep contact with the people in your close surroundings. In that way, you can offer each other services and help each other out. An overall solution or ‘way to go’ isn’t there though: ‘everyone has his or her own character and every situation is different.’
FUTURE FARMERS MOVEMENT. ‘I think it’s a great idea! As for myself, I could especially use some help with ways to share knowledge. Facilitation of farmers gatherings for example, where you can share information in a very practical way.’ Joris emphasises that it’s important to keep in mind the seasons and pick a date where people have time for such a gathering. It would be nice if a kind of database could be created on the website of the FFM, where people can find challenges, techniques, methods, solutions and also scientific articles. Joris has a positive view on the future of farming here in the Netherlands. Especially here, in an industrial Netherlands, Joris managed to start a vegetable garden with many (old) varieties and in that way reconnect the ‘empty, modern human being’ to food, nature and to him/herself.