Allow me to introduce myself

Given that I’m always making noise about local produce and the need to know your farmer, it’s about time I introduced myself, isn’t it? ‘Myself’ being Chris, the founder & market gardener at Pluktuin Sayuran: hi, hoi, selamat berkenalan!

Photo: M.A. Manaf
Photo: M.A. Manaf

I’m a British-Indonesian in the Netherlands, a WUR International Development Studies graduate, passionate about social and environmental justice and good food. My mission is to reconnect people with their food: where it comes from, how it’s produced, who’s producing it & why all these things should matter to everybody, including you!

So how did I come to this? And considering that I am an anthropologist by training, how did I wind up growing vegetables on a small 650m2 plot in Wageningen? To trace the roots of this development (excuse the pun, there will be more – British genetics & all), we need to look back at my upbringing and cultural heritage. As a kid growing up in Canterbury in the UK, I was acutely aware of this other side of me; this made me curious to explore and engage with my Indonesian heritage. Having had a strong sense of social justice from a young age, the issue of plantation agriculture in Indonesia and the ensuing environmental and social injustices quickly captured my attention. It was here that the initial seeds of wanting to become a food producer were sown, though I didn’t know it at the time.

A desire to be part of addressing these issues led me to a bachelor degree in International Development, and then to Wageningen for my masters in the same topic. My vision was always to follow a career in policy advocacy, politics, activism, or even academia as my way of contributing to fighting poverty, inequality and protecting vital ecosystems around the world, particularly in Indonesia. Throughout my studies, I became increasingly aware of the fact that many of the most pressing issues are inherently interlinked with the way in which we produce and distribute our food. At the same time, I became increasingly frustrated with what I saw as the ineffective and in some cases even fraudulent nature of the global development and aid sector. Becoming a cog in this wider machine appeared to me as too much of a futile endeavour.  After meeting and spending time with inspirational small-scale producers and engaging in the wider movement calling for a sustainable food system transition, the idea of becoming a producer started to grow on me.

What attracts me about farming is that it puts you right on the front line in a very pragmatic manner: you have your own little piece of the earth to care for and feed people from. In uncertain times, this offers a very tangible means through which to make a contribution on the ground (quite literally). This also translates into offering something tangible to consumers: you can help people to reduce their food footprint and actively invest in regeneration of soils and ecosystems through their diet. It is upon these sentiments that Pluktuin Sayuran was founded.

Photo: Jasper Lamaker
Photo: Jasper Lamaker

Pluktuin Sayuran is a self-harvest market garden located within a pre-existing garden called Pluktuin de Bosrand on the edge of Wageningen. It offers a wide variety of vegetables, herbs & edible flowers, as well as seedlings to help you grow your own. Think of it as an open-air living grocery store & garden centre, the soil is our supermarket shelf! You can harvest what you fancy for your dinner or weekly groceries and then pay by weight or piece at the end. No subscription necessary.

The garden is run following the principles of agroecology, which in short means minimising external inputs (zero agro-chemical use) and investing in building long term soil fertility & the health of the garden ecosystem. It also has to do with how food is distributed: selling directly to consumers as well as to some local food enterprises. This brings a lot of joy to me as a producer, knowing the faces and stories behind where my food is going to, and the feedback I’ve had so far is that this works in both directions! Knowing and actually seeing where your food has come from brings a sense of pride and satisfaction to your mealtimes that you can’t find in the supermarket aisles.

Proof that I enjoy producing food! Photo: Jasper Lamaker

So, that’s a bit about me and the story behind Pluktuin Sayuran. If you’re interested to find out more, you can subscribe for email updates, check out the website, follow on social media, or just come by for a chat!

Cheers and hope to see you soon,

Chris

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