When I moved into my new neighborhood, I noticed two interesting things. A big passion for gardening in my new neighbors, and a lot of community organizing. Afew minutes away from my home lies my newest favorite place in all of Maastricht – the Hof van Heer community garden (in Dutch – ‘buurttuinderij’).
It all started at the beginning of this year. A group of neighbors, led by Jo and Jan, decided to turn a disused, empty lot into a meeting place. and create a true community of nature aficionados. Since February, they managed to design the garden and create a true community of nature aficionados. In the core of the garden – a circle-shaped flower bed – eight people take care of their own flowers and vegetables.
But, Hof van Heer is much more than just the garden. The team aims to create a true local cultural centre, with a variety of cultural events for children and elderly. There are plans to build elevated flower beds for people with disabilities, as well as for the residents of the nearby retirement home. They also want to build a greenhouse and plant a fruit forest. For this, they are raising funds from different sources, ranging from crowdfunding initiatives, charity grants, to a weekly market. During the market you can buy fruits and vegetables grown in the garden, try some delicious cake with coffee or buy some home-made jam. Of course, all proceeds from the weekly market sales go towards the development of the garden. You can visit Hof van Heer outside of the winter months for their Saturday market, between 13 and 16. You can also visit them outside of those times by appointment.
One day in September, my roommate and I decided to help out at the garden and get to know the people that created it. We jumped into our overalls, went to the garden and asked how we could help. A member of the garden team (the so-called ‘Hoffers’), explained their activities and told us about the different people around in the garden. Then – we went to work. We helped prepare the soil for the future fruit forest, and we also helped paint the crates that will be turned into the elevated flower beds for people on wheelchairs. While I was digging through the soil, I found a little, scared frog – that was quite the sensation (the frog also peed on my hand, but we don’t need to discuss that…).
All in all, while visiting Hof van Heer, you can find everything – lovely nature, lovely people, delicious treats, and a local community of friends dedicated to their gardening cause. The very point of Hof van Heer is not even the gardening – it’s about the community of friends and neighbours they built along the way.