Allotments for private individuals in a professional greenhouse. That concept is catching on in the Netherlands, resulting in ONZE Volkstuinen opening a second location this spring. As well as in Almere, there will now be plenty of gardening opportunities in Houten too, in a former organic tomato nursery. This is confirmed by Ron van Zwet.
The former rose gardener started the initiative in 2012 in Almere. The concept caught on, so gradually, more and more people asked if there would be an allotment greenhouse elsewhere in the country. “This option came along, and we went for it,” says Ron.
In Almere, ONZE Volkstuinen has grown step by step to its current size of 2.5 hectares. In Houten, it is a larger greenhouse, of which Ron himself rents 2 hectares. “We won’t be going any bigger,” he says.
For now, the run-up of allotment gardeners is as expected. “We started in April and are happy with how things are going now. We have taken a few years to make this location a success as well.”
ONZE Volkstuinen Utrecht, May 2023. Photo: Facebook
The greenhouse that previously housed professional organic cultivation has been converted by ONZE Volkstuinen. “We completely gutted the greenhouse,” Ron points out. That mainly means clearing the greenhouse soil. “You don’t want anything in there and to optimize the greenhouse for allotments.” Converting the greenhouse goes “with the growth.”
In Almere, the allotment greenhouse is particularly popular among Surinamese customers. Among other things, they grow tropical vegetables there. In Utrecht, Ron sees that the audience is different for the time being. “Here, we see fewer Surinamese vegetable gardeners at the moment. In the allotments, we mainly encounter traditional vegetables, such as cabbage varieties, and the well-known greenhouse vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers.”
Ron himself also grows a special type of cucumber, sopropo. He started doing that a few years back and still does in Almere. The main thing, however, is organizing allotment cultivation for ONZE Volkstuinen. “That is the greatest art,” he says.
Ron and his team take care of organic pest control and water supply. The allotment gardeners themselves, who use a piece of land in the greenhouse ranging from 12 to 40 square meters, arrange planting and maintenance.
Ron, who now works with a team that includes his son, Levy, has noticed that the idea of greenhouse allotments has now been emulated in several places in the Netherlands. Just this weekend, for instance, he was in Kwintsheul to visit a colleague’s location. “I also often get questions from professionals when we have been in the news, with professional questions,” he says. He is pleased to see that the trend has been picked up.