12 dec 2023

In 2024 Plaats De Kleine Aarde develops a field lab for a vital food system

Dutch version is here
At Plaats De Kleine Aarde (The Little Earth), farmers, growers, citizens and other system players are going to learn about and work on a sustainable food system that gives everyone perspectives for the future. For this purpose in 2024 we will develop a so-called Fieldlab. Within this lab we intertwine three types of ‘journeys’ namely those of farmers, citizens and the system. Once the Lab has been set up to everyone’s satisfaction, in the years thereafter it will contribute to a vital food system that, among other things, realizes regional objectives on the southern sandy part of The Netherlands.

It is common knowledge that the way we treat the Earth and how we produce and consume food on it, is causing problems. The quality of the soil is under pressure, as are biodiversity and the landscape that surrounds us. Furthermore, the water system requires improvement and the changing climate requires action. Animal welfare, the earning power of the farmer and the overall health of the inhabitants of The Netherlands can also be improved.

If you want to revise the food system, the obvious thing to do is forcing farmers, growers and other producers to change. After all, they are the ones producing it and so they will also have to move. According to Plaats De Kleine Aarde this is only partly true. Because who are they all doing it for? Exactly, the consumer in the Netherlands and beyond. And so that citizen/consumer will also have to be stimulated to adopt a different eating pattern in which a vital body is nourished by vital food, produced by vital farmers on vital soils.

System players on a journey too

But with only producers and consumers you are not there yet. Because there is still a world of system players in between and around them: suppliers, financiers, advisers, retailers, marketeers, governments, landowners, universities and educational institutions and others. All these players will have to go on a journey.

But what is the best way? And how to weave those three journeys together? That will be clear in the design for the Fieldlab by the end of 2024. A Lab that, no matter what, will contribute to a vital food system in all respects in the south of The Netherlands, the realisation of regional objectives and to the Plan Boerenperspectief (Farmers’ Perspective Plan).

In order to get that Lab off the ground, a kind of trial will take place in 2024. This will include offering ‘journeys’ and developing prototypes of new systems. Through individual conversations and group sessions with both farmers and citizens, we will explore what they need to get moving. Or how they can be enticed to take steps. Consider offering new insights, space to experiment and creative forms of cooperation. The aim is also to explore mutual shared interests, projects and arrangements.

Conscious contracting

And to let ’the system’ go on its journey, we bring together all kinds of stakeholders. The aim is to get a group of intrinsically motivated companies and organisations moving after 2024. This is done within the Fieldlab through a method that encourages transition and is known as Conscious contracting. Here, ‘contracts’ are not determined by risk or potential damage, but on concepts such as connection, common goals, shared responsibilities and mutual understanding.

Earlier in 2023, some 20 organisations and institutions indicated their strong support for the Fieldlab approach as advocated by Plaats De Kleine Aarde. Among others, educational institutions HAS Green Academy, Warmonderhof and Koning Willem I College gave their support, as did respectively Caring Farmers, Docters and Vets, Province of North Brabant, Rabobank and the Food Transition Coalition.

Design money

And earlier this month, the project partners received a commitment for over 300,000 euros of national and European funding; money that will allow the Lab to be designed by 2024. From January, the project team, including representatives of universities and educational institutions, lawyers, governments, farmers and other partners, will actually start working for a year. At the end of the year, there will be a plan of action for the implementation of the Fieldlab for the years ahead. 

Knowledge gained, new insights and other experiences will be reported regularly, both through the communication channels of Plaats De Kleine Aarde and those of the project partners and stakeholders.