De Waalgaard: “Food production in collaboration with nature”


In Weurt we recently got a new stop: the Waalgaard. A few enthusiastic people bought an old-fashioned sprayed pear orchard here and created a food forest and a pick-your-own garden. Pilgrims who walk the Walk of Wisdom can score their ‘Beuningen’ bird ring . The Waalgaard is located on the dike of Weurt, route map 32, dot 7. Immediately to the right at the bottom of the dike you can see the ‘food forest orchard’.

Recently I met Rosanne Langendijk who is a volunteer here. At the beginning of the Corona pandemic, she had also signed up as a volunteer for the editorial staff of the Walk of Wisdom, so I asked her if she wanted to interview Joke Feenstra, one of the initiators, as an insider.

Waalgaard initiators Joke Feenstra (left) and Frank de Gram

Nature is messy but intelligent

“Nature is very messy, but very intelligent and well attuned to each other,” says Joke Feenstra as she prunes pear trees in the food forest in the making near Weurt. “We are not a nature organization, but an agricultural organization. For us, it’s about food production, but in collaboration with nature. We look at the system. And I think it’s important that we restore the system.”

Joke explains how the Waalgaard came about. In 2017, after taking a course on food forests, she decided to start her own food forest. The condition for her was that she would meet someone to do it with. She submitted her first ideas as a case study in a course in which Frank de Gram participated. They combined their ideas and when they were able to buy a pear orchard from Weurt, they started: “We are worried about climate change and the disappearance of biodiversity, but we are doing something about it.”

Joke has worked in the business world for many years and uses her commercial knowledge to make the food forest profitable. “I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, perhaps a bit naïve, but with a serious wish that agriculture can take on alternative forms in the future. We want to show that you can earn money from this form of agriculture, in collaboration with nature.”

Frank and Joke are pioneers who are also experimenting with different forms of agriculture on this piece of land to learn about what works well and what doesn’t. For example, they use different types of mulch (covering material) for planting in the various rows of the food forest. They also share this knowledge with others. After a number of years, they want to hand over this food forest to a food forest farmer who can live off what the harvest of this food forest yields. It will take a number of years before this becomes possible. If it turns out to be possible. It remains an experiment of which the outcome is not yet certain.

De Waalgaard has three goals. Firstly, the development of a new type of agriculture with plenty of room for nature. Secondly, it must be economically viable. And finally, it is a community project: by and for the people. That is why they work with harvest companions and work experience places and the property of the Waalgaard is in the hands of a cooperative. The members offer more than just financial support: “It gives a huge feeling of being carried.”

While pioneering, there is gradually more interest in this alternative form of agriculture from conventional agriculture. People see that this food forest is not so bad. Subsidy schemes for alternative agriculture are now also emerging. In 2022, for the first time, there will be harvest companions for the newly planted vegetable garden at the Waalgaard. At this stage of the project, the food forest is not yet developed enough to be able to harvest every week, but this is already possible at the vegetable garden.

The earnings are minimal in the start-up phase, but working on this project gives Joke a rich feeling: “I come from another world. That’s where I learned to think in terms of money. This is about thinking in terms of other values. I feel like I’m working on something that matters. And then all those people who participate. When I worked in business, the definition of success was to make a lot of money, you had to get rich yourself. This project is about doing things together, about joint ownership, which unleashes an enormous force. You feel the sympathy, the willingness of people, a huge award that you don’t see as much in the business world.”

Walk of Wisdom pilgrims often reflect on their lives while walking. Joke started this project because she wanted something different from life than she had. At the Waalgaard you can also be inspired to make new choices in your own life. You can see how people get a taste of alternative ways of dealing with food supply and nature. You can experience that it is possible to turn your life around. This requires adjustments in your lifestyle, but brings wealth in a different way.

Rosanne Langendijk.

Food forest-Waalgaard

More about the Waalgaard

Attached to the sign at the entrance of the Waalgaard is a birdhouse with the blue Beuningen ring for the pilgrim’s lace. Pilgrims are welcome to visit the Waalgaard when it is open. The opening hours can be found on the website,

You will also find more information about the possibilities to participate on the website. As a volunteer, incidentally or structurally, through a work experience placement, as a cooperative member or harvest companion or in other ways, such as by donating a street name to a food forest row. The Walk of Wisdom is already participating!