Food connects us to our landscape (see earlier examples I and II). More than a year ago, a group of people from the Pomona neighborhood, born from the Transition Town Vallei animation evenings, started making plans to improve part of the 1 hectare old orchard which became a wild and inaccessible bush overgrown by brambles. A year of planning, project development, fund-raising and building networks followed. Funding was secured from the KNHM, Oranjefonds and two neighborhood platforms of the municipality. A week ago, finally, we had our design evening with some 20 people from the neighborhood. It was the second of three evenings to inform, design and decide with all inhabitants who are interested to a proposal for planting a wide variety of edible trees, bushes and plants. Planting will take place in March, and a neighborhood party to ‘open’ it officially will follow in the summer, when everything is growing and green. We hope to engage more and more inhabitants because the neighborhood needs to take care of the maintenance once it is planted. This will be quite a challenge as old orchard has been neglected so far.
On the other hand, there is a history of successful community activism and organisation here. Although the old orchard now has the status ‘green’ in the municipal spatial plan, this was not always the case and its current appearance is part of a history of neighborhood protest against an additional apartment building in this already densely built area. When the next door ‘Boomgaard’ neighborhood with semi-detached and detached houses was built at the former university orchard about 10 years ago, this 1 hectare finally got the ‘green’ status to function as a buffer and recreation space. The housing developer agreed to a landscape design with a lower swamp area, a restored piece of old orchard and some new fruit trees. Little to no maintenance after planting left few new trees alive and currently the brambles are growing into the old fruit trees.
The ‘edible forest’ will give fruits to harvest and herbs to cut. It will be great for the active neighborhood centre Pomhorst where lots of activities involve nature and food, such as weekly cooking classes with children. Also nature education can benefit from a better accessible and more varied green area. There are quite some hurdles to take, but it was great to see 7 groups busy penciling in new plants and paths.