Discover Zelfoogsttuin Bij Mei!

Mariska aan het werk bij Zelfoogsttuin Bij Mei

A vision for green, sustainability and connection

The vegetables grown and harvested for Stichting De Groentedeler are grown at Zelfoogsttuin Bij Mei in Zoeterwoude. A beautiful place that is maintained with passion and care. In this very garden, our volunteers harvest fresh vegetables for the customers of De Voedselbank. We come together weekly at this inspiring place, where new connections, greater awareness of crops, nutrition and sustainability are developed.

In a conversation with owner Mariska Verhulst, we learn more about her vision, about the way she runs the garden and about her ambitions for the future.


An inspiring vision for Zelfoogsttuin Bij Mei

“As consumers, you could say we lost our connection to food in a certain manner. At some point I started to wonder, where my own food came from. What exactly was I eating over the years? I started researching and noticed that the more I found out, the more questions I gained. At Bij Mei I want people to reconnect with nature and the nutritious value of the vegetables they eat.”

Apart from restoring the connection to food, Mariska has a broader ambition. “Food has the ability to connect people, this type of connection is an important goal for me. Every year I am amazed by the wonderful community that is created at the garden. Both among the individuals who come to harvest, and among the volunteers of Stichting De Groentedeler. With great dedication, these volunteers harvest and sort numerous portions of fresh vegetables for the customers of De Voedselbank. They provide vegetables to the people who would not be able to buy these themselves, but who urgently need healthy food. Isn’t that wonderful?!”


Treating nature with care

In her way of working, Mariska tries to ensure that agriculture and nature work together. An inclusive way of growing where no pesticides are used. The natural environment around the garden is used to assist the growth of plants and crops. For example, by stimulating biodiversity, insects are attracted to the garden to eliminate natural enemies on the plants. The hedgehogs that live along the edge of the garden and the great tits in the nest boxes around also assist Mariska in her work. They eat the snails and caterpillars around the crops and prevent the leaves from being eaten.

When asked why sustainable and organic cultivation is so important, Mariska answers that she does not want to drain the land. “For me it is about stewardship. We have to ensure that our natural environment is still available for future generations, by treating the natural resources with care. For example, by maintaining the soil and avoiding using too many heavy agricultural machines. We ensure a striving biodiversity by adding nature. We use trees, native plants and bushes to accommodate insects, bees and birds. By taking good care of both the vegetable beds and the edges around the garden, I want to leave the soil better than I found it.”


Growing through the seasons

In the open ground at Zelfoogsttuin Bij Mei, the possibilities for alternatives when the weather changes, are limited. With the experience of recent years, Mariska adapts as much as possible to the course of the season. “I experienced that nature determines the right time for any crop to grow. I can be impatient and ready to sow beans, but in the end they only grow when nature is ready.”


Connection as a common goal

Connection is central in both the garden and Stichting De Groentedeler. Connecting the city and the countryside. Our connection with the earth on which we live and where our food comes from. The connection with the community that understands the importance of fresh and healthy food. With people who come to the rural area in Zoeterwoude for this purpose. But also with all the people who currently do not have the fresh vegetables that we may take for granted. “Stichting De Groentedeler helps me to reach out to a group of people that I cannot reach myself. They make my vegetables available to everyone.”


Contribute to healthy food for everyone!

Are you curious about the garden, and would you like to help harvest vegetables as a volunteer of Stichting De Groentedeler? We would like to welcome you within our team, in order to share fresh organic vegetables with those who need them most.

Would you like to do something but working in the garden is not possible for you? You may be able to do a financial contribution or start a fundraising campaign. This way we can continue to increase the amount of vegetables to be harvested and donated to De Voedselbank.