Can you describe what you do?
We’re farmers who produce vegetables, cereals (which includes flours, pasta, and soon bread), pork and beef for the local markets; operating within the CSA, or Community Shared Agriculture model. Next year we plan on milking cows and producing dairy products, too. This spring, we put our heads together and founded a CSA co-operative called BoerEnCompagnie, and our fields and meadows are located all around the Park Abbey, just outside of the city.
Together with about thousand inhabitants of Leuven, we take full responsibility for the production of our own food. Together, we share our harvests – but also the risks that could be associated to it. If the harvest is good, we have more to share; if it is less, there’s less to go around. This is how we seek to create and organise solidarity between our “consum-actors” and ourselves.
How do you perceive Leuven?
Leuven is a small, energetic city with a fast-growing number of inhabitants. Culturally it’s very busy, with different interesting poles. The presence of schools, the University and new enterprises make it a knowledge city where lots of young families want to live. The potential amongst inhabitants to realise the necessary changes in the way we deal with one another, our environment and economy is huge. The vibe is positive; and as long as the potential for synergy continues to keep growing, then we’re sure to be able to make some very nice things happen. A huge appeal to the place is the juxta-positioning of its historical and modern architecture; as well as the presence of open spaces around the city allowing for possibilities for a performant food strategy.
How has Leuven contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
Tom founded the first ever Belgian CSA farm eleven years back – his work reflects highly on the city, and even the country. A part of the land we rent today was put at our disposition by the City, giving us the possibility to make progress in developing a mixed farm. There’s good synergy between our farm and the City, from which both thrive.
Daring social innovation projects will continue to arise as the climate for co-creation keeps growing.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?
The City could do more with the willingness of its inhabitants to participate – this willingness to co-create their city in collaboration with policy-makers is unavoidable. Daring social innovation projects will continue to arise as the climate for co-creation keeps growing. Also, creating affordable housing is a currently big challenge in our city.
If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?
I would take them to see a dance performance at the cultural centre STUK, show them round old and new architectural hotspots (like the Groot Begijnhof beguinage, but also the harbour area), stop at a nice bar and have dinner at Rossi. Also, a trip outside the city to see the three abbeys – especially Park Abbey, of course!boerencompagnie.be