Recycled Gift Economy

April 24, 2012

13 & 14.04.2012

Days 26 & 27


In the short time that has passed since visiting Plukrijp, I have found the practices we observed there have come up frequently in conversations with others we meet…sharing about several aspects of the project which embody really good design.

Firstly, and most obvious upon arrival, Plukrijp is a place of collection, comings and goings, distribution…this is true regarding people, stuff and food. About five years back, Plukrijp transitioned quite fluidly and naturally into what it is today…a place where wwoofers and disengaged young adults who want to engage and people and friends interested in permaculture alike come and share in the flux of varying tasks completed each day to sustain the 2 hectare plot of land, including a number of 60+ metre polytunnels, chickens, food forest, wheat trial plot and more. Founders Frank and Martine have been on site for over 25 years. Initially, cattle farming then wholesale organic vegetable growing and today, mostly relaxing and enjoying the abundance of a functioning permaculture garden sustained by a gift economy which provides them and their visitors as well as local community folk with an abundance of organic food and produce as well as all sorts of reusable materials from bicycles to bed frames to a unique hand plowing tool. When Frank gave up the growing business, he was dismayed by the energy and intensity required to maintain veg boxes with just the right variety and quantity and aesthetic. Today, the food growing on site are primarily self-seeding salads and perennials and wild foods, highly productive and require very little input, as the soil is fertile and the foundation is sound.

This is a radical shift of energy for Frank and Martine, allowing much more time to enjoy sharing knowledge and information and inspiration with others and invest more energy in supporting the flow of valuable ‘waste’. The ‘waste’ I’m referring to includes boxes and boxes of organic olive oil, organic biscuits, organic milk supplement for infants, organic health and beauty products, organic bread, organic fresh vegetables and fruit, organic juices, organic milk, organic cheese, organic jams and on and on… There is a whole store room dedicated to all of the goods Frank and Martine have acquired from wholesalers who had nothing better to do with than throw it in the garbage! This model highlights the amount of available resources which are untapped, so to speak. The huge amount of food which goes to waste regularly in all parts of the world. Here, it is being put to good use feeding many in need and many who simply enjoy! Frank says that, increasingly, people recognize Plukrijp as a place to bring their unwanted, usable foods and goods. Others come to select needed bits and pieces and clothes etc from their large garage of used items. This sort of gift economy, Frank explains, enables a true exchange of value in the form of products rather than relying on the depreciating intermediary of monetary currency. It also enables the whole project to run on the meager donations collected in the Magic Hat. Many give and take freely, making Plukrijp a hub both socially and economically.

I spoke with Aminah, one of Frank’s six children, who says a lot has changed at the place in the past few years since she has been going to University. Lots of people are always there when she arrives home for the weekend…and it’s not infrequent that she is asked, “who are you?!” in her own home. Aminah shared that, while it can be a bit weird and less cozy than in the past, she can see the value in what her parents are doing and how much joy they get out of living their dreams in this way.

The other cool thing I wanted to mention is a wheat growing trial Frank is experimenting with…where he has planted individual wheat plants about 40 cm apart in all directions rather than the classic scattered seeding which he refers to as “auschwitz planting.” In his trial, the plants all have room to grow much larger and produce significantly more wheat kernels. And the colour of the plants on his plot as compared to the “auschwitz” plants on the neighboring plot are a much deeper shade of green! More for less.

And I also really enjoyed jumping on the trampouline!

Thanks Plukrijp…it’s cool what you are up to!

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