Today the group had the opportunity to participate in a service opportunity at a local park known as the Food Forest. This is a large group of horticulture specialists, as well as various other volunteers, that aim at creating forest land that can also be used as a source of food. This is a multi-stage event that takes many years for the forest to reach appropriate growth for adequate food production. Another goal of this organization is to promote and maintain biodiversity and sustainability in these forest ecosystems. There are many of these food forests located all around the world with one of the largest located back home in the USA!
The forest where we did our work was in the town of Almere located approximately 30 minutes from Amsterdam. This forest will be showcased at the event known as Floriade in 2022. Floriade is the world’s largest horticulture expo that occurs every 10 years in the Netherlands. This event gathers the top horticulturalist from around the world to discuss various issues surrounding the industry and highlight some of the newest products discovered in the previous 10 years. One of the major focus areas of the upcoming expo is sustainability. The Dutch have a very developed understanding of this topic and we all look forward to learning more from these sustainability experts.
Throughout the day, our group was in charge of sawing down small hazel trees, clearing brush, constructing a natural wall, and organizing wood into unique structures. There were multiple exciting structures completed, however “Das Hut” was the premier structure of the day.
Others that were of merit were the home made benches constructed by pounding branches into the ground as supports for larger logs, as well as a bench that was constructed the same way one would build with Lincoln logs. With all of our hands helping out, we manage to clear a very large area and replant some willows to assist with the transition from a normal forest into a Food Forest.
We then had the opportunity to observe a reception building that is made with as much plant material as possible. It was also arranged for the building to run completely sustainably by generating its own electricity, recycled the waste, and purified their own water.
To close out the day, a few members of our group had the excellent pleasure of using a local laundromat. Similar to the US, most of the equipment was less than satisfactory. However, everyone now has fresh, clean clothes to use for the rest of the trip.
Matt Welter, Iowa State University