Volkstuinen: The allotments of the Netherlands
There is nothing more satisfying that growing your own fruits and vegetables. In the Netherlands however, the prospect of doing so can seem quite bleak. But believe us when we say, things can grow here without a greenhouse!
What is a volkstuin?
For those who have not heard of the term, a volkstuin is an allotment or community garden. It usually consists of a plot of land, which is non-commercial, where individuals or families can grow fruits and vegetables, flowers and trees.
Allotments are generally patches of land but often have sheds and sometimes, even a proper summerhouse shelter for seasonal or weekend accommodation. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it!
The history of volkstuinen
In the Netherlands, volkstuinen started in the 17th century. Back then, they were more commonly known as moestuinen; an old-fashioned term meaning vegetable garden, or kooltuinen ("cabbage gardens"). They were places where the working class produced a reasonable amount of vegetables for themselves as well as selling off the surplus.
It was believed that these gardens would increase the happiness of people by improving the material and moral circumstances of the working class.
It wasn’t until around 1928 that the allotment societies founded a national organisation by the name of De Algemene Vereniging van Volkstuinen Nederland (AVVN). Allotments in the Netherlands were generally used for vegetable production up until about the 1950s when the gardens became more known for their recreational use.
The benefits of having an allotment
There are more than 240.000 allotments in the Netherlands. With the hustle and bustle of the city, getting away can come as a godsend. In fact, spending time around nature can work wonders, and gardening is most definitely therapeutic.
Whilst allotments in the Netherlands cannot be considered a permanent residence, overnight stays during the summer season are possible if this falls under the municipality's plans and the space has a garden house that meets the requirements. You won’t be able to use one to obtain a residence permit though as it is not an official residence.
How to apply for (or buy?) a Dutch allotment
Allotments in the Netherlands are rented from an association or the rights to a plot are obtained when one is granted membership at an association. This means that you can't buy an allotment - you have to apply for one, hope you get lucky, and then pay to rent the land - which is generally owned by the municipality or occasionally by the association itself.
Plots differ in size and you can, for example, rent a small plot just to grow a few vegetables, or a slightly larger plot of land with a shed. You can also rent one with a garden house as well as a shed, or even a plot of land with a garden house, shed and possibly even a greenhouse. The costs for an allotment will differ according to its size, extras such as a shed, and the association involved.
It's also worth noting that the waiting lists for allotments - especially in and around the bigger cities - can be quite long, so there's no guarantee that by joining an association you'll be handed the keys to your own allotment, so to speak. If this is definitely something you'd like to do, then prepare to be patient.
Allotments around the Netherlands
Allotments can be found all over the Netherlands. On the AVVN's website, you can find a list of all the volkstuinen across the country - but you would then need to contact the individual association to find out about available allotments and what rules apply when acquiring one.
Here are some websites with information about volkstuinen in the big Dutch cities:
- De Bond van Volkstuinen (Amsterdam)
- Platform Rotterdamse Volkstuinen (Rotterdam)
- Haagse Bond (The Hague)
- Overleg Volkstuinen Utrecht (Utrecht)
You can also find information about local volkstuinen on your municipality's website.