What is it like to visit Europe’s largest urban farm?
The Netherlands is famous for many things especially water management, the country is for large parts below sea level , so it is a survival necessity to be the world’s leader when it comes to water management techniques such as flood protection, water treatment and supply. Major chunks of the Netherlands have not only been reclaimed from the sea, but 2/3 of the country would regularly flood if it weren’t for the many dikes and barriers.
There is a famous Dutch saying: God has created the earth and the Dutch have created the Netherlands!
It also rains a LOT in the Netherlands, which is another aspect of the Dutch having to manage water. Check out this really funny video on how to Survive The Dutch weather.
did you know that the Netherlands are an agricultural giant?
There is a great National Geographic feature about The Netherlands called: How this tiny nation feeds the Earth, which is well worth reading.
I don’t want to bore you with too many details, but just to put things into perspective, as it is quite impressive ( source of all below listed is the aforementioned National Geographic article):
# By 2050, the Earth will be home to as many as 10 billion people, up from today’s 7.5 billion. If massive increases in agricultural yield are not achieved, matched by massive decreases in the use of water and fossil fuels, a billion or more people may face starvation. Hunger could be the 21st century’s most urgent problem, and the visionaries working in Food Valley believe they have found innovative solutions.The challenge? Put in bluntly apocalyptic terms, he says, the planet must produce “more food in the next four decades than all farmers in history have harvested over the past 8,000 years.”
# Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources.” Since 2000 Dutch farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 percent.
# They’ve almost completely eliminated the use of chemical pesticides on plants in greenhouses, and since 2009 Dutch poultry and livestock producers have cut their use of antibiotics by as much as 60 percent.
# The tiny Netherlands are the globe’s number two exporter of food as measured by value, second only to the United States, which has 270 times its landmass.
THE WESTLAND REGION- THE DUTCH SILICON VALLEY
The secret to how they do it is easy 1. technology and 2. massive complexes of high-tech greenhouses, particularly in an area between Rotterdam and The Hague called Westland. The Westland is the “Silicon Valley” for plant growing and green innovation.
We love to visit the Westland with our little one. The beaches in Monster and Hoek van Holland are great, we like to go raspberry picking in Monster or eat at a great organic restaurant in an old church Op Hodenpijl in Schipluiden,which has a great garden
Greenhouse in the sky: VISITING Europe’s biggest urban farm IN THE HAGUE
In 2016 an urban farming project run by Urban Farmers opened up in The Hague. The UK Guardian called the urban farming project in The Hague the Greenhouse in the sky and it is the the biggest Urban rooftop farm in Europe. After more than a year of regularly passing the building, I decided to book a tour and visit the project locally known as Urban Farmers “UF002 De Schilde“. They have a variety of tours available throughout the week in English and Dutch (most tours are 45 min, 90 min).
Here are the 4 things I learned during the tour:
#1 IT IS a GREAT WAY TO MAKE USE OF ABANDONED OFFICE BUILDINGS THAT ARE TOO COSTLY TO TEAR DOWN
The farm is housed in a former Philips TV and phone set factory built in the 50’s building. The building is very close to The Hague city centre and on clear days you can see the many greenhouses of the Westland from the Urban Farmers rooftop which is 35m high in the sky.
On the 7th floor of of this abandoned office building, you can find tomatoes, salad, paprika and baby leaf growing in the 1,200 sq m rooftop greenhouse, while on the 6th floor is a huge fish farm.
#2 URBAN FARMERS CAN PRODUCE A LOT!
Our tour guide told us that the project has the capacity to grow 45- 50 tons of vegetables and raise 19 tons of fresh fish every year. Customers are purchasing the produce directly on the Urban Farmers weekly rooftop marke they also deliver to local restaurants. Especially restaurants seem to often have specific requests for the urban farmers i.e. they want a certain type of bean. The Urban Farm is able to cater to specific growing needs and see themselves as a sort of extended kitchen garden that local chefs can utilise. The Urban Farmers team members I met were all very passionate and full of enthusiasm, there is a good friendly vibe.
#3 The Fish farm is smelly
I am sensitive to smell, and the fish farm was more smelly than I thought it would be. But it was very interesting to learn more about the technique used to farm fish. Makes me look differently at the fish I buy in my local supermarket. At Urban Farmers they use a technique called aquaponics to farm fish. It seems to be an ancient and sustainable food production technique with a modern twist. Our guide explained it like this: Nutrients rich waste water from fish production ( to ‘normal’ non-farmers that is poopy fish water) is used as fertilizer for the vegetables upstairs, the plants then purify the water that will be reused for the fish farm downstairs.
#4 URBAN FARM PRODUCTS ARE TASTY
Have you ever eaten a real fresh tomato? The kind that you can bite in and eat it like an apple with loads of aroma and flavour ? That is the kind of tomatoes they grow at Urban Farmers. You can buy pickled gherkins, tomatoes, the fresh produce and the fish at the weekly farmers markets held at the rooftop market every week. Also other local products can be brought there.
I really enjoyed seeing how successfully food can be grown locally on a rooftop, but have to say the fish farm was a bit off putting. I like the idea that fish get caught the good old fashioned way, but than again I know that probably the fish I buy locally has been farmed in a similar manner.
BONUS #5: VISIT THE MUSHROOM FARM IN THE SAME BUILDING
The HaagseZwam Farm on the 4th floor in the same building is all about farming oyster mushrooms on coffee grounds!
Its a vertical farm and the oyster muchrooms are suspended above the ground in large bags. Haagse Zwam is offering tours on the first Friday of each months (7,50 EUR per person) and also training afternoons on how to grow oyster mushrooms at home .Once a month you can get a joint tour of both farms together.
IF YOU GET THE CHANCE VISIT URBAN FARMERS TO EXPERIENCE THE FUTURE OF URBAN FARMING
Tram 9 (Dynamostraat) stops right infront of the door and it takes less than 15 minutes to reach from The Hague Central Station. Urban Farmers offer a special kids tour ( for kids between 5 -14 years old) and kids are welcome to enjoy the little , cozy cafe and weekly farmers market.
The Urban Farm is also a popular event menu and hosts quirky events, such as a greenhouse yoga session (offered irregularly via Hidden Gym).
A shot of our Acoustic Yoga class this morning @urbanfarmersnl. What a lovely location! . . #yoga #yogi #music #beautiful #location #fitdutchies #fitfamnl #fitfam #fit #fitness #fitspo #fitspiration #fun #love #workout #training #happy #fitgirl #smile #picoftheday #shredded #follow #hiddengymnl #instafit #justdoit
This blog is part of my Staycation project Being a tourist in your own city -The Hague/The Netherlands, check out our other posts about things to do and see in The Hague on our where we have been page.