REPORT OF THE MEETING WITH NEVIN COHEN (USA), WAYNE ROBERTS (CA) AND ANDRE VILJOEN (UK) IN AMSTERDAM
Date and place: 15 January 2013, Nemo, Westerpark, Amsterdam
Debra Solomon – Urbaniahoeve
Ellen Mensink – Creative City Lab
Peter Spruijt – Nemo
Tanja den Broeder – Platform Eetbaar Amsterdam
Charlotte Buys – DRO Amsterdam
Inge Engels – Platform Eetbaar Amsterdam
Anke de Vrieze – CITIES (FARMING THE CITY)
Annet van Hoorn – Groene Ruimte Maken/Platform Eetbaar Amsterdam
Arnold van der Valk – Wageningen University & Research Centre
Nevin Cohen – The New School, NYC,USA
Wayne Roberts – Toronto Food Policy Council, Toronto, CA
Andre Viljoen – CPULS, London, UK
Due to the sLIM Conference taking place in the week of 14 -19 January in Amsterdam (addressing the impact of food on the city) and a master class on urban food policies at CAH College in Almere, Platform Eetbaar Amsterdam had the opportunity to invite three international experts in the field of UA for an informal meeting with some important stakeholders in the field of UA in Amsterdam:
Wayne Roberts, now retired, has been involved with the Toronto Food Policy Council since its foundation in 2000.
Nevin Cohen is connected to the Five Borough Farm project, researching the UA system in NYC.
Andre Viljoen is a leading figure in the field of urban food production. His main research area is sustainable architecture and urban design (see also: Continuously Productive Urban Landscapes)
The goal of the meeting was to exchange experiences and learn from lessons learned abroad on how to continue working on UA and urban food strategies in Amsterdam.
What about food production?
According to Nevin, it’s not about food!
According to Andre, It’s all about the context. In all projects, food production is less important, it does so many other things.
According to Wayne, food is the leverage.
The place of UA in politics:
No city agency considers UA as part of their core business. It is natural that they are resistant to have more tasks transferred on to them from other levels, while not getting paid for them.
In this situation, it is our task to help them understand the potential of UA for their department/business/ portfolio.
The value of food for the city, in as many different ways as you can think of.
In the Netherlands, UA is dealt with mostly by the portfolio of Economic Affairs. Just like agribusiness is viewed as a commercial sector. No connection is made between health and food, not even at the highest scientific level (WAgeningen University) (Dijkhuizen)
How can food best be addressed in politics
By a Ministry of food without portfolio, a minister in a matrix ministry.
At city level by a senior official (director) with a non-sector, general mandate
Food as a lever should be put on the agenda. When it is promotion time, you have to deliver on that. In this way there is a mechanism to create priority for food.
This paradigm shift of food is unlikely to happen soon here.
Remove is difficult. Just get your foot(d) in the door: Food is the leverage, the solution to the issues the city agencies are faced with. That’s the way to value food for the city.
Don’t sell UA as a money maker, but as a solution. Whatever the motives or USPs, make sure UA will happen and grow.
DON’T OFFER UA, OFFER A SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM
The food policy council is organised to work this way: (stukje van wayne uit mail)
Comparison between NY and Amsterdam
The cooperation between NY Urban Farms and Regional Farms:
NY urban farms are strongly connected to regional farms.
Region farmers sell in the city. One farmer collects produce from 4 different farmers, and sells the products at a farm stand at the urban farm. These farmers go up and down on a daily basis to sell products on 250 urban farms
During holidays, kids go to the rural farms to learn, supply and apply technology.
The rural farms thus are all part of the metropolitan system – important to look at the level of the metropole!
At this moment, it is necessary to make the city infrastructure more efficient (petroleum). Also storage space and processing space are needed: investment for efficiency.
This system has come about autonomously and individually. Directors creatively linked up to farming programmes and farmers.
Wayne is now working on: integrating UA and green infrastructure (i.e. green roofs, (rain)water management, biodiversity). Last spring (2012), a conference was held in which developers, working professionals, architects and politicians met.
In the Netherlands it is unlikely that a similar process will happen so autonomously, as this is a country of urban planners and physical planning, much more so than the US. Hence, it is all the more important to convince the planners of the benefits and urgency of putting food on the planning agenda. Physical Planning as a profession was born when food left the city, that is why it’s so unfamiliar to planners.
Sustainable Energy generation also is a bottom-up process in NY, with a big role played by the Grassroots.
Here, the Land agency (DRO) is pushed into developing criteria for funding and set up a database.
A discussion develops on the state of affairs here and in NY. Here, a beginning of a database of initiatives exists. Here, there are not just 3 landscape architects witin the ranks of the city officials, but many more. Whether NL is over-regulated and pre-designed or not, we do not have a dynamic exchange of produce with the surrounding farmers, nor a demand for the knowledge of the rural farmers.
In NY City, farmers have come to live in the city since 1940. So there are many people living in town, who in their hearts feel they are a farmer, and they have the knowledge, just no land.
In Amsterdam, farmers and greenhouses are still in rural area, and the city dwellers have hardly any agricultural roots.
Another new development in Amsterdam is to semi-legally skip the physical planning requirements in order to create space for innovative multi-functional designs, including UA.
Rule 1 *‘Don’t offer UA, offer a solution to a problem’
Make Food a strategy for a diversity of urban issues, think about the demands and context of other actors (officials, housing corporations etc) ->SEE PROPOSAL FOR INVENTORY RESEARCH
Rule 2 Be inclusive, create space for multiple opinions, views and visions
Big Tent metaphor
Big tent metaphore refers to keeping as many people on board, being inclusive. Seeking to attract people with diverse viewpoints. There are different models for the big tent.
Rule 3 Food as a Lever
The best way to change the perspective on your problem is by positioning food and Urban Green as a lever to move agenda’s: solving problems other than food.
P.E. congestion is less by using local food.
Traffic is food-related. If you can grow local food, there is less traffic and less congestion.
It takes a lot of time to explain to people, as there are no figures
Conceive basic guide showing what is the situation (as is done in Carolyn Steel’s book).
Rule 4 Take into consideration the wider city -the metropolitan area- and the relationship with peri-urban farmers
In NYC, sewer flow is problem. Projects are being created to reduce it by using green infrastructure. Three urbans farms were included in this project and funded to collect data. Now, measurements are being taken. Among officials, there is scepticism about the effect of farms (compared to eg green strips along highways, that demand a lot less maintenance)
According to Nevin, it’s not about food! But now is the time to collect data to make the effects of UA visible. But is it feasible? The first step was to identify the key values of gardeners, officials and advocates of UA. Officials had doubts about benefits.
It takes a lot of time to explain as there are no figures.
Start to collect data, but be aware of the challenges involved.
Nevin Cohen, who teaches at The New School in NYC, is involved with the Design Trust for Public Spaces. The Design Trust has experience in using design as a tool. They developed a ‘metrics’ to investigate the UA system in New York.
Questions for practioners:
-What are your objectives?
-What are your resources?
– What are you measuring?
The main constraints appeared to be access to land, compost and soil.
Also it turned out that virtually no-one was keeping data or logs and most didn’t really see the importance of that.
This made the researcher change the approach: instead of quantifying, the first step became identifying key values of: gardeners, government officials and advocates of UA.
Rule 5 Look for abundance
There are several forms of trash, or abundance. In food, material, people.
Look for it and work with it/ them.
Deal with social breakdown and neighbourhood breakdown, by creating value and
p.e. people: make use of a disproportional amount of immigrants, who used to be farmers, and still are committed to food production.
250 markets together can convince the city. 596 Acres is an organisation which finds lots of suitable land/cityplots and just puts an poster with a number and name at the location, so anyone can make a phonecall and start an urban farm there.
Rule 6: Work towards integrating UA and green infrastructure
No examples were given of how this is presently being done in NY or Toronto, however, it was offered as a urgent advice.
In Amsterdam, Urbaniahoeve is currently creating a green (edible) belt through the city.
Later remarks and other notes
In Amsterdam, Water Management is an important sector/issue, as the city is situated well under sea level and increased rainfall and denser ruban development can effect in floods. In a conference in March 2013, the experiences with this in Philadelphia were highlighted: create many small plots locally managed with trees and plants, in order to retain water in case of heavy rainfall. Again, Food is the lever.
Nevin and Wayne identified three types of urban farms:
These are hybrid types.
Now they are working on trying to collect data. It remains a question whether that is feasible. Data gathered:
– Measure improvement of biodiversity
– Ecosystem Services/ Benefits
Debra: are INPUTS being counted? (not yet)
Recycling of nutrients from waste streams
Economic Department: food hubs help farmers to easily bring food into the city
Existing needs and deficiencies.
Gotham Green: large grant
The New Farmer
What kind of control?
What kind of data to collect?
Social housing = problem housing
Change the outlook of a neighbourhood. Let people be proud.
If the objective is social, make the farming long-term or permanent
How extensive, where located, for how long.
Example of social benefit of UA:
Bottom-up value added.
Food as a lever
There was a budget: 800.000 dollar for community gardens. 20.000 for activities in projects. There were two areas where no-one applied for money. There was no neighbourhood network to attain simple achievements. It was an area where murders took place.
So the social housing agency started an animators program, to build a neighbourhood network.
3 urban green activities:
The community kitchen occurs by the lowest form of organisation network in the neighbourhood..
When there is more cohesion, people start a garden. And when the neighbourhood is well organised, they apply for community market.
How is the matrix viewed.
Who owns land that is vacant.
Place making urban agriculture vs making food production
Funds giving on other
People just like to see plants grow, it is universal amazement.
Cities in global north
Young people authenticity.
Government interface is not done.
Local better than European.
Market! Like artist.
Take advantage where you can get them.
Every project has his own matrix.
Rabobank need to know what is there to be accountable.
To get data is tough!
Value for participants
Platform strategic values move dialogue further funders want to know