UNISG grads dig Dutch for the future!

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- Hi, guys, great to meet you and to hear about your exciting food journey. Please tell us a little about yourselves!  
Hello, it’s great to talk with you and share our story; we’re really excited about what’s happening and the future. There are five of us in the group: Milo and Julia are Dutch, Laura and Lisa are Swiss and Andres is Colombian. Julia did a Masters in Food, Culture & Communication: Human Ecology and Sustainability (fc21) and the rest of us followed the bachelor course, graduating in 2016.

 - What was the catalyst for getting involved with the farm?
We were always dreaming about putting into practice what we learned at UNISG and what we believed in. About four years ago, when we had dinner and a few bottles of wine, THE IDEA, the idea for a common farm came up. We wanted to create a place where we could produce food for people in a sustainable way, reducing the carbon footprint, respecting and increasing the health of the soil and giving value to the work of the farmer, all the while doing something with our hands, down to earth, something we see importance and sense in. After graduation, we worked on different farms across Europe, herding cows, curing salumi, growing vegetables and learning about looking after the land.

Then, in late 2017, Milo and Julia moved to Amsterdam and began working on a small farm just outside Amsterdam with a focus on nature-inclusive vegetable farming. Towards the end of last year the farmer followed his heart to Berlin and offered the farm to Milo and Julia who quickly called their friends and the project took off.

- What attracted you to take on a CSA and how did you arrive at the decision to take on the farm?
We took over the farm from Wout ten Have who was already working the farm working as a CSA that inspired us to do the same. We love this model as it really connects consumers to farmers. Another benefit is the fact that our customers pay in advance, right when we need to make our investments for the season and they share the risks of farming with us: if we have a very bad year our customers agree to have less vegetables for the same price (and if we have a great year they get more for the same price of course). A CSA is a system connecting producers and consumers within the food system more closely by allowing the consumer to subscribe to harvests of a particular farm or group of farms.

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- What are/will be your major crops? Will you have livestock?
We won't have livestock as our land is too small (just 4000m2), although we might get a few chickens next year. We grow 60 different kinds of vegetables and many fruits, flowers and herbs! Our key is to be super diversified to keep our customers excited about their vegetable boxes. It is also a way to avoid risks: if one crop fails the other might actually have a very good year. 

- Why did you opt for a crowd-funding campaign to acquire the e-cargo bike? Do you have further plans for fund-raising?
Delivering our vegetables in a sustainable way is very important for us, but we didn't have the funds ourselves. Making money with growing vegetables is hard enough as it is and there wasn't really much left to make these kinds of investments. We thought that it would be a great idea to ask the community for some help as our decision to deliver by e-bike also benefits the community: it is not only environmentally much more friendly but it is also a much nicer way in terms of noise and taking up space in the streets, things that are quite important in our super busy city! Now that our campaign is running we are amazed by the power of the community and how fast it is going! It is wonderful to feel so supported! We do have further plans, but first we needed to raise € 8000 (which we’ve done) to buy the bike.

 - How can someone subscribe to your crowd funding?
Easy! Just click on this link: https://www.ulule.com/three-wheels-for-a-farmer/ and you can see the campaign, our newest crowd funding video and all the rewards you can get by donating (we had 12 artists from all over the world designing vegetable postcards for us and they are really cool). We really are SO happy with every contribution, small or large! With additional €4,000 we will be able to finance bike insurance, but also a kickass irrigation, an appropriate tool-shed, a bike shelter and a living hedge to protect our crops from the fierce wind of the Netherlands. All the money and anything above the orginal €8,000 goes towards those projects. 

Using this bike, we can deliver 300 kg of vegetables to 50 customers, even on a very windy day.

- What advice would you give to a student currently studying at UNISG thinking of taking a similar path?
Just do it! I don’t think one can ever be prepared for everything you need to know if you run your own farm, the only thing you can do is to jump right into it and to stay flexible and curious!

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Don’t forget to support them, contact them and let everybody know about their powerful project!
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