‘We are the first culture in human civilization that eats routinely unpronounceable food; we are the first culture in human civilization that eats food that you can’t make in your kitchen. Have you ever tried to make high fructose corn syrup in your kitchen?’ This is one of many quotes of Joel Salatin, the famous American farmer who wants to rekindle your relationship with food. Following his advice, Roland van Reenen and Gianne Balentien, are leading a young movement of local farmers in Curaçao who maintain integrity in the food they produce.
‘The high priest of the pasture’, the New York Times calls Salatin. He was profiled in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a book written by American author Michael Pollan who asks the seemingly straightforward question of what we should have for dinner. Salatin's innovative farming system — where the animals live according to their ‘ness’, the earth is used for symbiosis, and happiness and health is key — gained attention from around the world. His dad was an incredible innovator, Salatin recalls, but right when he was poised to be a successful farmer in Venezuela, it was snatched away from him during political upheavals. The family returned to the States and started over. In an interview with Makenna Goodman, Salatin explained: ,,As an accountant, Dad saw the vicious treadmill farmers were on, even in 1961, with chemicals and practices that encouraged disease. He immediately found grass farming, controlled grazing, composting, portable structures, and all the basic principles that undergird our farm today.” He is only an extension of having gone down a very different path than most farmers, Salatin says, ,,and I thank my roots for that.’’
Roland van Reenen and Gianne Balentien have different roots, an ocean between them, but share the same philosophy. They want to duplicate nature and promote the local production of organic food – free of pesticides. Balentien, initiator of Koperativa Fresku i Orgániko, and Van Reenen, coordinator of V-Ital Biologisch in Suriname and Curaçao, teamed up to create the first organic food subscription service on the island, offering a weekly ‘V-Ital pakket’ consisting of six different vegetables and fruits, and recipes according to the foods available. During a test period of three months, with a limited number of subscribers, their initiative could rely on support and the subscription service is now open to the public.
Subscribers pay one week in advance, and pick up the ‘nature box’ on the due date. ,,We want to provide local farmers with a steady source of income that will enable them to raise their production and, in the future, live off their land,” says Van Reenen. Together with Balentien he pays a regular visit to all organic farms on the island, known to them so far, and encourage farmers to participate, share knowledge and learn from each other. For Van Reenen, one of the main reasons to eat organic food is that as a result of the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides in industrial agriculture many types of vegetables are no longer able to complete their natural cycle. ,,Artificial growth promoters and the use of cuttings result in plants that are too weak to reproduce themselves. A healthy plant produces seeds and multiplies.”
Fruits and vegetables for the V’Ital food subscription are grown at Plantation Mandinga and Nos Kunuku, situated in the area of Ronde Klip, at Eco Village Sol in Santa Catharina, in the kunuku of Marco Rojer at Santa Rosa, Aishel Marchena’s platation at Caracasbaaiweg, in Hòfi Cas Cora, Den Bo Hòfi at Mahuma, in Barber, where Selwin Leito lives, and at the farm of Elvis Alberto at Westpunt.