Nothing but local vegetables on your plate
Students cook sustainable dinners
Nothing but local vegetables on your plate
Farmer Harm Bosma (68) looks out over the expanse of his cabbage fields for a minute before turning around and strides through the puddles to the greenhouse where he grows cucumbers and tomatoes. In contrast to the wet autumn weather outside, the greenhouse is almost uncomfortably warm. He picks a tomato. ‘Would you like to try one?’ The tomato is small but firm. ‘What a difference, eh?’ He grows his tomatoes in real soil, he says, while supermarkets grow theirs on mineral wool.
At their farm in Zuidwolde, Harm and his wife Willy (70) grow dozens of vegetables. Tomatoes, but also broccoli, pumpkin, cauliflower, spinach, beets, and beans. He sells his harvest directly to his customers: people have been coming to the farm for twenty-five years to pick their own vegetables. ‘Entire families come by to pick beans, taking up to eighty kilos. God knows what they do with it.’
Dinner for seven euros
He does know where some of his produce ends up: on the plates of approximately seventy students and other interested people who join the Local Farmers’ Dinner in the Mennonite church in Groningen. Psychology students Alisa Todorov (21) and Jule Rief (22) are the organisers of the monthly dinner. They serve a vegan menu, using exclusively locally grown seasonal vegetables.
A week later, it’s time for dinner. The church, hidden in an alley off the Oude Boteringestraat, is basically unrecognisable. The food has been laid on a long table in the middle, and guests sit at round tables. On the menu today: broccoli soup, pumpkin strudel, roasted cauliflower, tabbouleh with tomatoes, and an apple pear crumble for dessert.
It’s almost a real restaurant, except here, a three-course meal will only cost you seven euros. ‘Grab as much as you want’, says Alisa to everyone who comes in. Most of the guests are students, but there’s also a family with small children.
Alisa and Jule met each other through their volunteer work for Amnesty International. They became friends and found that Alisa is motivated by helping others, while Jule mainly cares about the environment. They decided to combine their interests and founded the TODAY Organisation, which aims to encourage people towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
They started with a series of workshops, but they wanted to do more. ‘The problem is that there’s a lack of knowledge in the community. People don’t actively consider how to be more sustainable’, Alisa explains. ‘We want to raise awareness. Food is an important part of everyone’s life.’
They came up with the idea of a meal made out of local, seasonal products. ‘The Farmers’ Dinner brings people together and is sustainable to boot’, says Alisa. They collected a group of volunteers to help them cook. All they needed was a supplier.
They found him at the Ommelander market, which is organised every other Saturday at the Harmonie square. The Bosma family stand stood out among all the local produce: nothing but seasonal vegetables, all grown right here in the province of Groningen. It was just what they were looking for.
Everything is from the land
Back in Zuidwolde, the storage shed shelves are packed with vegetables who might just end up on people’s plates at the church. One crate contains large carrots, the other a large head of lettuce. The table by the door holds beans of all shapes and sizes. ‘Those green ones are bush beans, but these are a different colours’, says Harm, while he picks up a yellow bean. The bean is covered in long, red spots, as though it’s been splattered in paint.
Harm and Willy says the farm is hard work. They take a short break in their workmen’s hut; time for a cup of tea and a biscuit. ‘We work every single day’, says Willy. ‘The weeds just keep shooting up.’ Harm points outside. ‘See all the green stuff? That’s all weeds!’ The red kale is almost invisible among all the weeds. But it’s worth the hard work. ‘Everything I eat is from the land. I never buy food. Seriously, never. It tastes better and it’s healthier’, says Willy.
She sighs. She doesn’t like the fact that people want the same vegetables to be available in the supermarkets year-round. ‘People are lazy. If someone wants beans, they can just buy beans. But they don’t know where they’re from. People should be more aware and eat seasonal vegetables. There is so much to choose from.’
Meatless but good
Alisa and Jule agree with her. ‘We’re so used to having access to food from all over the world’, Alisa explains. ‘We wanted to create awareness: where does the food on your plate actually come from? With this dinner, we’re also showing a different side to vegan food. We’re showing that a meatless meal can still be good.’
Twenty-one-year-old Saad, student of economics and business economics and a big meat lover, has been convinced by the dinner. ‘The food has made me reconsider my health. Because I’m sitting here surrounded by vegetarians, I’ve also become more interested in sustainability.’
The menu changes with the seasons. It’s a surprise what will be on the menu for November 21. It could be leeks, red cabbage, carrots, or kale: Harm and Willy grow it all.
Interested in tasting some of Harm and Willy Bosma’s vegetables? The Local Farmers’ Dinner takes place once a month.