Our food: How we are connected to each other
Food connects and unites, which is important for the quality of life of small communities: eating and drinking is a communal activity. When we share a meal, our culture becomes tangible, as does the expression of mutual care and consideration.
Traditionally, Venhorst has always had a rich social life with associations and clubs for dancing and making music together, for sport, and for conviviality. In combination with a broad range of housing options and possibilities for employment, an attractive perspective arises for the next generation to settle in their own village.
Vincent van Gogh depicted the harsh life of surviving in the Peel back then at the beginning of the industrialization with his painting of ‘the Potato Eaters’. Since then, a lot has changed. People nowadays do not easily make the connection between the food on their plate and agriculture, nature and landscape.
An insatiable freedom of choice and a lust for convenience have been leading the way for consumers for a long time already. The times are changing, however. More and more people want to know where their food comes from, even though they still prefer to buy their pre-packed lamb chops from the supermarket.
In general, few are aware of shepherds being both a farmer and a nature conservationist at the same time. Most people do not know that the sheep grazing the heathland will produce high quality meat. Sheep and shepherds are in their eyes no more than a cultural relic from days gone by. Extensive grazing, however, is essential in the Netherlands for the management of hundreds of thousands of hectares of nature area and cultural landscape and can contribute, at the same time, to the local meat production. So the regional economy and local culture are getting a boost, thanks to a growing demand for sustainable and regional products and services.
The agricultural sector has always been important for Venhorst but threatens to outgrow the local community more and more, due to expansion and intensification. Urged on by far-reaching industrialisation and rationalisation, the sector evolved into an efficient, often linear, system of exploitation and exhaustion. The growth and development of agricultural companies has been at the expense of the cycles that were traditionally related to the seasons of the European heathland and to our food supply. It has caused pressure on society in many ways. The tension that has grown between farming businesses and local communities requires us to reconsider how our natural capital could possibly be more beneficial to the creation of multiple values as part of our cultural landscape. That also raises the question of how to work together with others to develop a better future, both by caring for each other and in providing a welcome reception for refugees and foreign visitors.