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  • Writer's pictureMaudy Hendriks

A Day In Our Regenerative Future

Updated: May 2, 2023

Article 2/10 - The Circle of Soil, The Care Revolution issue #2 This article is written by Moonatic Agency


You slowly wake up to the soft morning sunlight peeking through your curtains. As your house is situated on the edge of the forest, you wake up daily to an orchestra of birds and crickets.

Barefoot you make your way to the kitchen, only to notice you are out of fresh fruits for breakfast. You throw a cotton grocery bag around your arm and step out, where you take a few deep breaths of fresh air. It smells like wet plants, as it rained last night. You run into your neighbours, with whom you have a little chat and a laugh, reliving a funny joke made the night before around the campfire. Welcome to 2052, a day in our regenerative future.


TAKING FARMING INTO OUR OWN HANDS

After waving goodbye to your neighbours, you make your way through the food forest to the place where you do groceries - or at least, something like that. Neatly laid-out wooden crates display all sorts of freshly harvested vegetables, fruits, eggs, meats, and milk. While loading your grocery bag, you see the community farmers sitting at a wooden picnic table with flasks of coffee. You join them for a steaming cup and a conversation about their issues with harvesting Paksoi this week. When your cup is empty, you wish the farmers good luck and walk back home. No cash registers and no queues: the farm products come complimentary with your rent.


Sounds too good to be true? The initiative ‘Herenboeren’ in the Netherlands is turning this way of living into reality. Boudewijn Tooren, chairman of Herenboeren Wilhelminapark, explains where the idea of a community-owned, regenerative farm started. “One day, one of our fellow villagers had a brilliant idea. In a nutshell: what would happen if 200 households would buy a piece of land and leased it to a farmer who would farm it in a nature-inclusive way on their behalf?” Boudewijn and his fellow villagers worked out their business case and in 2016 the first farm was a fact. “Every household buys a share in the farm, and gets a lifetime of access to the farm and its produce for a fixed annual fee,” Boudewijn explains. “We split the costs of running the farm with the community members. So for 10 euros a week, a person gets access to seventy types of vegetables and fruits, eggs and chicken, pork, and beef. Every Saturday, the community comes together to meet up and pick up their fresh products.”


But according to Boudewijn, the farm could play an even bigger role in the life of the community members. “Most of our members would like to live on the farm. People need green in their lives, and that is true for smallholder farmers and urban dwellers alike. Natural environments increase productivity, creativity, andhealth.” From this idea, the initiative ‘Creabitat’ was born. The idea of ‘Creabitat’ is to assign different functions to areas within the 200 hectares of the Herenboeren farm. Firstly, regenerative agricultural land. Secondly, space for ‘new nature’ - such as natural forests or waterbodies, aimed at enhancing biodiversity. And lastly, housing. A place for 400 households; off-grid, circular, biowaste only, and self-sustainable. For roughly 1500 euros a month, this place should provide its members with a roof over their heads, energy, shared spaces, tools and transport, and of course: organic food.


ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION FUN

After doing groceries at the farmers market, your weekend is still young. So you decide on a small, one-hour road trip in a shared car to a nearby ‘ecosystem restoration community’. For nearby people, this place offers great weekend relaxation, but you may also stay for weeks - or even a month for a down-to-earth workout in and with nature. You will be involved in all kinds of, usually practical, work, to give a degraded landscape a little push towards restoring itself. You will most likely have to stick your hands in the dirt, and afterwards: a fresh juice or glass of local wine. What a way to meet new people!


Ecosystem Restoration Communities’ is an organisation that offers like- minded people a chance to learn restoration techniques, develop a deeper connection with the earth, and actively participate in restoring degraded land. According to Pieter van der Gaag, director of ERC, there is a connection between soil health and mental health. “I am pretty sure we can scientifically prove that we are natural beings and that we are completely dependent on the natural system we are born from. If we let this natural system degrade, we let ourselves degrade. A physical connection with a healthy ecosystem feels crucial to us as human beings.” Pieter sees himself as quite ‘sec’, and prefers a scientific approach over a spiritual approach - but there is one thing he has noticed over and over again: “People who spend a month in one of our camps with their hands in the soil, always feel better afterwards. They feel less stressed out and more grounded. Our psychological connection with the earth and the natural environment is simply undeniable.”


COMMUNITY SPACES

Just when the sun dips below the horizon you arrive back home. It’s Sunday night, which usually means homemade pizzas and a movie screening. Boudewijn describes what he envisions a Creabitat community to be. He wants to avoid people who come just for the “off-grid” experience. “This is why we start with the community farm,” Boudewijn explains. “We attract people who have a genuine interest in reducing their consumptive footprint. After forming a community with the farm at its core, we take the next step towards housing. We don’t want people joining Creabitat, and ending up building fences around their houses.” According to John D. Liu, filmmaker, ecologist and researcher, close-knit communities play a vital role in establishing a regenerative future. He is developing physical structures for communities to interact and work together in an integrated, eco-friendly manner. It’s called: ‘Creator Spaces, Cultural stages, and Central Kitchens.’


John explains: “The Creator Spaces are places for metal or woodworking, mechanics, sewing, design and crafts of all kinds. Which then makes it possible for things to be recycled and repaired instead of being dumped and discarded. There will be Cultural Stages where we organise festivals and movie screenings to celebrate culture.” Lastly, John sees the Central Kitchens playing a key role in keeping our soils and food systems healthy. “It can stop the commodification of food. The central kitchens, the communities, and the producers negotiate directly without the interference of big agri- and food businesses. This way you’re driving agricultural change, as well as making the community into this kind and sharing space; a caring economy.”


Curious why farming with nature is easier and cheaper than farming against nature? Read the next column!

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