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GROEnTEN uit GENT – Growing food and helping build a community Facebook:

GROEnTEN uit GENT is located at Dok, run by Willem Van Gucht. Willem works for Sociale Werkplaats De Sleutel Gent a drug prevention and social work centre which integrates people back into the work system after hard times.

There are 2 garden programs (the other garden is in Brugse Poort). It began in 2012 and is aimed to help workers feel a sense of responsibility in running a project and in the process kinds of people within the wider community. The hope is that they benefit from this experience after having been socially isolated and get the feel for what it is like to work a full day in the hope that they can take on a job in the future. Willem says that even the simplest conversations are the first stepping stones to re-establishing contact with other people, something that most of us take for granted.

The Gardens are also open to the public where you can harvest and take home food in return for helping out. They are open every Tuesday and Thursday and one Saturday per month. Anything not harvested and taken home by volunteers gets sold very cheaply at the stall out the front of the gardens or given to the unemployed as a part of a food bank.

The location of the gardens is on an old industrial site at DOK, and one day it may be developed. So it was important to garden using containers so that the soil quality was assured as well as the fact that one day in the future the garden may need to move. They use all kinds of recycled materials to build containers, from bathtubs to skip bins to old tyres. Willem says that container gardening is a big learning curve, particularly in keeping the soil moist as containers and pots tend to dry out very quickly. Mulching has become a big part of their gardening and it also helps put nutrients back into the soil to feed the plants.

I also met Jan one of the workers in the program. Jan has been involved since the beginning, although at first he wasn’t interested in plants! He liked building things and didn’t care at all about gardening. But since being at the gardens, he is now very interested in plants and growing food. He has loved seeing the whole process from seedlings to plants to harvesting and eating. He wants to work in growing food, perhaps on a farm. Willem seemed very proud that Jan has enjoyed his time at the gardens so much.

They have 2 lovely chickens (although they aren’t laying eggs yet!) and they hope to get bee hives soon. But next year it looks like they may not get the funding to pay for the garden program. So Willem needs to find ways to make money out of the gardens. He has ideas about selling seedlings and selling surplus food to local restaurants, and then using the leftovers to feed their chickens and make compost to put back on the gardens.

Willem’s hope is to build a community at the gardens, but their location seems a bit out of the way and they haven’t had as much interest as he would like. If you are reading this and you are interested in getting involved, then go down there and say hi. It’s a great way to help build a community. And learning about container gardening is a valuable skill for growing food in urban areas.

  • groenten_uit_gent.1350917874.txt.gz
  • Last modified: 2012-10-22 14:57
  • by imogen