A fruitful harvest in Rijnvliet after the first year

The ‘edible’ neighbourhood Rijnvliet just had its first harvest season since the food forest opened in 2022 and this year the first homes were completed. Back in 2021, the project was recognized with the Innovation in Politics Award and this year it received the Dame Sylvia Crowe International Award. These  awards mark great milestones for a project that is jointly supported and implemented by various parties, especially its residents.

According to the judges of the Landscape Institute who awarded Rijnvliet the prize, it “demonstrates that with dedication, open dialogue and a shared vision, transformative neighbourhood projects can come to life.”

Rijnvliet is one of the last sites to be developed in the Leidsche Rijn neighbourhood. Well integrated into its surroundings, it connects seamlessly to the Strijkviertel lake and the Rijnvliet sport park to the south, and to Rijksstraatweg and Voorn Park to the north. A large waterway – De Vliet – which connects Leidsche Rijn and Strijkviertel lake gives Rijnvliet a distinct identity. What makes it really unique, besides the many waterways, is the special approach to greenery in the plan.

The landscape applies the ecological relationships of a natural forest but uses, in this case, mainly edible species for food production. The ecological properties of different types of plants, shrubs and trees are combined in a smart way to create a stable and resilient ecosystem. Besides providing an abundance of food, the food forest also provides different ecological services such as habitat for insects and animals, mitigation of climate change and a pleasant environment for locals to relax.

As a former pasture area, Rijnvliet is regenerated and now the green outdoor space, natural waterways and food production connect people with each other and with nature. This connection is further strengthened because local residents and members of the Metaalkathedraal (ecological and cultural centre) were heavily involved as initiators in the realisation of the forest and also the new neighbourhood. The plan for the layout of the edible residential area was further developed by Food Forestry Development, Felixx Landscape Architects & Planners and De Zwarte Hond.

A recent article in the NRC newspaper, featuring several of the involved parties, shows that there is definitely success despite the slow and long process. For instance, Sarah Lisa Lugthart of Metaalkathedraal says: “This edible neighbourhood shows that it is really possible to cohabitate and interacting with nature in a different way.”

Ruben Jonker, project manager at the Municipality of Utrecht, also states in an interview that the Rijnvliet concept strengthens social cohesion and Wageningen University is currently researching this further. Under the name CULTiVATE, the research can be followed online and also highlights similar initiatives in other European cities. We look forward to the findings and see what we can learn from them for similar future projects.