Set-up vegetable farm: Internship at PeerGroup

Set up of small-scale vegetable farm in Donderen – Province of Drenthe

Location: the headquarters of the PeerGroup, Depot Donderen. The vacated ammunition Depot Donderen was built in the time of the Cold War and is working space of the PeerGroup since January 2011. The bunker complex sits in a small forest and has several ammunition buildings of varying sizes with open space in between. The PeerGroup shares the grounds with care farm Peest. The site, with the neighbouring farms is popularly called ‘Donderboerkamp’.

Commissioner: PeerGroup, a theatrical group that specializes in site-specific theatre in the northern provinces of the Netherlands working with themes of, in and for rural communities.

STA73745The PeerGroup is looking for a student who relates to the creative energy of the artist community of PeerGroup while bringing along collaborative skills, agro-ecology knowledge and an open mind for co-creation and learning. The student will be selected on the basis of an intake on the site. The student develops a plan and makes it happen with the support of the PeerGroup. The student can live on-site during the internship.

Applications with a motivation letter:

Request for a master student interested in place, landscape and population

The PeerGrouP is a location-art group that specializes in site-specific theatre and visual arts in the northern provinces of the Netherlands. The PeerGrouP consists of a lively mix of theatre makers and artists who are inspired by the landscape, the location and the local inhabitants. The quality of food, ecology, practical knowledge of the landscape, community spirit and the supply of energy are recurring themes within the PeerGroup’s projects.

The PeerGroup is looking for artists and researchers willing to participate in their P.A.I.R. (Portable Artist in Residence) project. The P.A.I.R.-project promotes artistic social commitment while focusing attention on man and his surroundings. The P.A.I.R. will be visiting three different locations (Veenkoloniën, Donderen, de Wolden) in the north of the Netherlands (Drenthe) to meet local inhabitants and to investigate their surroundings. In the past three years, the PeerGrouP realized three P.A.I.R.-projects every year. In 2012, the P.A.I.R.’s fourth year, the theme is Landscape Population. The landscape and its meanings in relation to the inhabitants and other users will be looked at on different levels.

The Rural Sociology Group and the Peer Group are looking for a  (preferably Dutch speaking)  master student interested in landscape, place, population and art, who is enthusiastic to do his/her internship or thesis in this site-specific project, starting preferably around August. The student-researcher will actually stay in the P.A.I.R. (see photo) for a while in September, in the area of the Wolden (near Meppel) in the  north of the Netherlands, while doing participative research.

Possible research questions are for example:
– What is ‘sense of place’ for the local population in the Wolden?
– Which meanings to they give to the landscape?
– Do inhabitants experience local identities? Do they have story-lines related the landscape?
– How are meanings, identities and sense of place linked to underlying values of people?
– How can meanings identities and sense of place be translated to recommendations for practice and policy? (people’s participation, community cohesion, networks)

Places are constituted by sedimented social structures and cultural practices, endowed with meaning and the constitution of identities, subjectivities and difference. In other words: culture sits in places. ‘Sense of place’ refers to an individual’s connection with a place (location, building, landscape) and to their experience of place, including different senses (sight, hearing, smell, movement, touch, imagination, purpose and anticipation). It is both individual and inter-subjective, closely connected to community as well as to personal memory and self. Sense of place has many components such as place attachment, place identity, place commitment and dependency, belongingness or rootedness or community connectedness and community cohesion. We will focus here on ‘Sense of landscape’. Sense of place is rooted in underlying values, about what people perceive as important for their quality of life. People value places and express agency and take leadership in shaping their own place. On the local level people reflect on and negotiate the conditions of engagement/participation, rooted in underlying values. If people become more aware of their source of passion, values, feelings and sense making, this can enlarge our ‘cultural repertoire’ and lead to a more inspired use of our environment.

The student researcher will carry out ‘on-site’ participatory research from a development and/or historic perspective on the sense of place and values of the local population in the Wolden in Drenthe, in the early autumn of 2012. The student will potentially cooperate with students from other educational institutes (AOC’s).The research will be supervised by the RSO group (Ina Horlings) and the Peer Group (Henry Alles). If you are interested, please send a mail before March to Ina Horlings (

Sus Rinus: November

The pig slaughter process is not a visible part of our daily relation to food anymore. In fact hardly anything of the growing, rearing, processing and slaughtering is visible to us. We can therefore assume to be more civilised than our ancestors while eating meat because it is so easy to close our eyes for the killing and chopping done by others. How horrified would we be if we had to chop the head of the chicken that we intend to cook tonight. How awful and sad it would be to slaughter Rinus after you got to know him intimately.

Increasingly, I come to think the other way around; how awful that I eat an anonymous pig who had an anonymous life together with a few million others and who’s parts are being used in at least 187 products without us knowing. How horrible that this piece of meat sealed in a plastic box with a number of ‘stars’ (see Keuringsdienst van Waarde) does not really link my thoughts to a concrete animal. How outrageous that I shovel my food in without thoughts about that little piglet grubbing around, to the wiggling of a fully grown pig tail while he is playing pig, to the socializing that they do, to the little naps they take, to the way they run to be fed.

Anna, Bom, Rinus and Alie were not only literally digging up the border but they also symbolise the border between a pig and our food (see the wonderful report with lots of pictures of assistant farmer Onno van Eijk). A culture that values their food, is a culture that knows their food. Once you know, fed and cared for Rinus, his meat becomes precious, the slaughtering an intense and difficult ritual and nothing of him will be spoilt or mindlessly consumed (see also the Volkskrant article).

The care and attention which naturally appear when you are involved in all aspects of the food leads to a quality which is recognised elsewhere in the world as a strong food culture. The majority of us, however, are made to value brands instead of food.

Sus Anna; The Peergroup

The story continues with the feeding (see earlier blogs). Feeding Alie, Rinus, Anna and Bom was my task. For the afternoon snack I collected half a bucket of acorns along the street. They looked like vacuum cleaners, quickly hovering up the spread around acorns. For dinner they first ate some bananas, spread around again to make it possible for me to reach the feeding hod with cooked potatoes. The moment the potatoes hit the hod they stormed at it to be the first. The second round of soaked muesli in milk ended in my a narrow escape from being run over.

A proverb goes like ‘one pig won’t get fat’. Alone, they eat gently from your hand. It is the peer group which makes the pigs extremely competitive. How human. Among peers they aggressively have to assert themselves. It reminded me of someone’s story. Growing up in a family with ten kids in the early sixties, the fiancées of bigger sisters were put to the test at the dinner table. Leaving the precious meat for the last bite they always found an empty plate once their fork finally reached out for it.

Alie, is the leader of this small group and therefore the biggest. Anna is the smallest. She is always struggling to get enough. She only eats when she has assured herself that no one is coming after her. When I threw in some spread around bread pieces she just ate one, walking around with it searching a safe place while the others were grabbing the next pieces coming from me.

Sus Bom; digging up the border

The mobile ‘farm’ is built as self contained solar artist-in-residence (see earlier blog) with an upstairs sea container as a living unit and a downstairs working shed, now in use as pig barn. Looking at Coevorden’s industry on the horizon, I spent a stormy night literally located on the border between the Netherlands and Germany. Border markers run through the middle of the field. The pigs freely walk to Germany and back, with no worries about different rules and regulations. 

Their snouts are not ringed – something which still is allowed in Germany. This means they can do what they most like; digging up the soil. Their border walkway looks like a freshly ploughed field with an occasional mud pool where they dug a particularly deep hole. They spend most of the day re-doing their previous digging, if not sleeping, taking a mud bath, eating grass and being fed. 

border marker

Pigs have bad vision but have extremely good ears. Bom keeps an ear on me when they all go for an afternoon nap. Piled on top of each other they lightly sleep. If one moves it takes a while with small talk oink’s before they sleep again. I try to be silent but a click of the camera is enough for Bom’s ear to raise. It stays alertly horizontal and a subsequent oink wakes up all for a new digging round.