The Netherlands, an outsider's view.

The Netherlands, an outsider's view.

PANDAM

Lutkemeerpolder: the last organic farm of Amsterdam fights to survive

by Pandam

 

Lutkemeer area in Amsterdam it’s not so easy to find: you need to catch tram number 1 and ride all the way until the last stop; then you walk along the road and just past an industrial area, you reach a small cycle lane. Lutkemeerpolder is right there and despite the placid look, those fields have been the battleground for a long dispute: on one side you have grass-root organizations of farmers and citizens, while on the other side, you find the municipality of Amsterdam. What’s the fuss about? Well, that’s quite clear: that is a disputed land and while the citizens want to preserve their heaven, the gemeente of Amsterdam has less idealistic plans: the site, according to them, it’s a perfect place to extend the adjacent Schipol airport.

And Lutkemeerpolder is not just a site where activists fight for the sake of it: the land is home to the last arable organic farm in Amsterdam, the Boerderij de Boterbloem, and its main feature is a unique, very fertile soil consisting of sea clay. The citizens who have organised the protest and mobilized to protect the Lutkemeerpolder made clear how crucial is to preserve grounds like this: those fertile fields play a vital role for biodiversity, local food production, C02 and water storage.

The municipality first published its new development plans in partnership with the Schipol Area Development Company in 2009: “In the first years the municipality did not actually stop the farmers to continue with their work. But eventually they prevented them from staying in their farms and didn’t allowed access to the land”, says to Pandam the resident Kees. A lot has happened since the re-zoning plan was first drafted: Amsterdam has declared a state of climate emergency, the GroenLinks (GreenLeft) party is now the leading party in the local government, and the Corona crisis has exposed the importance of local food production. “We thought those three elements combined would have been enough to stop the plan. We made headlines, organised demonstration, occupied the land, and still we have not managed to stop them. The future of the Lutkemeerpolder didn’t even rise visible opposition within the GroenLinks party.”

The Greens have however offered the farmers a compromise plan: in exchange for their “go” to the industrial park, they can continue to stat in their farms and are allowed to work on a piece of agricultural land, just smaller than before. Kees doesn’t seem too impressed by the plan: “GroenLinks idea is to leave Lutkemeer community with a taste of farming: you can still keep a few plants, a tiny store with some local products, but most of your food you can just buy at the supermarket”. Kees disagrees with this view, he believes that local food production should be supported and stimulated as supply chains can be disrupted. And if you can’t see that happen, well, look at corona crisis.

The current pandemic, in Kees’ opinion, was a big hit for the Lutkemeer. With tight rules in places for gatherings,  the grass-root organization has experimented with alternative ways of protesting, for example asking people to visit the Lutkemeerpolder and leave behind posters, flags, forks, anything to show support to the land.

Past and Planned Civil Actions

Amsterdam municipality starting date to work on the ground is September the 1st. Kees and his colleges, friends, and fellow activists are ready to fight for the Lutkemeer. “If we cannot get any delay or if the City doesn’t change its plan then we have no choice than fighting“

“We did an action last year. With children and adults we shoveled away the sand they brought” Kees says, “There are many animals living here, and this battle is vital for climate change, food and agricultural issues.

“As a grass-root organisation, hope is the only thing we rly on. We need to try, and perhaps we won’t succeed and all it will be lost forever. In that case you will come to visit the Lutkemeer in the future and tell your children what a great place it used to be.”