Slow Food Heroes: Imagine what we could do if people worked together!

credit Yoni Nimrod

Nominated in the list of the 100 best young sustainable entrepreneurs in the Netherlands, Andres Jara is a former UNISG student who has turned the coronavirus crisis into an opportunity to help small farmers and fight food waste. He tells us how the idea came about from his farm, De Stadsgroenteboer, and his restaurant Herbano.

I am 31 years old and I come from Cartagena, Colombia. I’m a part-time farmer and part-time food producer. After finishing my studies in South America to become a chef, I returned to Colombia to continue working for my restaurant business. In Peru, I discovered Slow Food thanks to one of my teachers, who taught me that a great cook is someone who works with the ingredients that surround him, knows the culture and the indigenous ingredients of a specific region and works with local producers. and is able to preserve tradition and knowledge.

So I went back to Colombia and found that Slow Food was global, so I became a member. After reading an article that mentioned the University of Gastronomic Sciences, I fell in love with the program and, after 20 minutes, I applied.

There I met my new family and, after finishing my studies, I found a job in Barbaresco as a chef in a restaurant. It was a great experience, but then I decided to go to Tuscany to La Tenuta di Paganico, to learn the trade of meat curing. There, it was a unique experience, I worked as a chef in the restaurant, but also as a chef producer of the assortment of farm products, and in the garden, with the animals. I spent a lot of time in nature foraging for food and picking fruit. There, the dream of having a farm grew and grew. This dream was born with my classmates, since we were students, about 5 years ago when we were gathered around the table having dinner and we dreamed of the possibility of having a farm to be able to cultivate food for us and for the people who were around us.. Three years ago, my former classmates contacted me and they told me that they had found a plot of land in Amsterdam: we could start our project , the De Stadsgroenteboer CSA farm that I own with four other UNISG alumni where we grow food with regenerative principles.

We do this part-time because we also want to focus on other areas, mine is cooking so I was doing farming and on the side I was organizing pop-up dinners once or twice a month to share with the experience people and let them know where the food came from.

The Roots, Rice & Beans project started in the middle of the pandemic in 2020 when I realized my neighboring farmers couldn’t sell their produce because all the restaurants were closed due to the lockdown.

credit Yoni Nimrod

First when the HoReCa chain was forced to interrupt the activity. We saw farmers struggle to sell their products after their customers could no longer order from them, and we decided to act. In a situation of depression and problems, we saw an opportunity to do better on many levels.

We save and add value to unsold seasonal agricultural products, thanks to unique recipes that respect the products, extend the shelf life, flexible activity for the needs of different channels and collaboration with local suppliers and retailers.

Basically, we avoid food waste from the first stage which is the agricultural surplus, that is to say this food waste that nobody sees, because it goes directly from the field to the compost. We therefore give work directly to the farmer and pay the right price so that we work with principles of solidarity.

My restaurant L’Herbano has also played an important role, as it has been home to many preparations to avoid waste and educate.

This is how it all started, turning crisis into opportunity.

It was not easy. I saw all this surplus, basically all these products were in danger of being wasted and I bought all that I could and started producing different types of products. I started without a business plan, I just had the knowledge to do the preservation process and how to make delicious recipes, I just started, not knowing how it was going to be. I started selling to different friends and neighbors and then I started going to small shops to tell my story. A lot of people said no to me, but that didn’t stop me. I started doing it with the help of some unisg friends (luckily i have unisg network) they helped me with labels, designs, drawings and social media. Now we are a team of 6 working together to take Herbano to the next level. We received help from many people over the year we ran. Volunteers, interns and people who wanted to help us because they also believe in what we do. Normally, farmers are the ones who get the least and are usually the ones who work the most, so we have to work together and not “help the poor farmer”: once we break this thought, amazing things can and will happen .

After a few months and avoid more than five tons of agricultural surplus food wasteI realized that my figure in the food system has a lot of potential: I am a bridge that connects the fields of production (cooking) and agriculture.

By creating this connection, I realized the positive impact we can bring with a circular system in Amsterdam.

credit Yoni Nimrod
credit Yoni Nimrod

All our production is handmade, so you can enjoy delicious meals while supporting a more responsible and sustainable way of eating. We support, respect and understand the importance of growing food locally, work with farmers who use regenerative farming techniques. As a farmer myself, I know how valuable organic matter and the composting process is to closing nutrient cycles and keeping our soil fertile.

However, here in Amsterdam there is barely a green waste collection system in place! Usually the fruit and vegetable trimmings are just burnt with the rest of the waste! That is why we continue to work on this issue. After a few months since our first project, we started with a pilot test with three companies to compost their organic waste and reduce CO2 emissions. The test was a success and we started working with more companies, helping start-ups and scale-ups to be more sustainable and circular.

Since the start of the project, we have reintroduced 13,500 kg of organic waste in the cycle, avoiding CO2 emissions of 28,250 kg! – and cash.

I realized that many small and medium businesses want to become more sustainable, and now we can offer them a circular solution for their organic waste! It saves companies time and money, helps the environment and improves soil fertility. Win-win! We are currently working with 23 companies in the city and organic matter is collected twice a week.

The company is growing and we are collaborating with many other farmers. we also sell to larger retailers and large companies like KLM and Smilde, to name a few (B2B/B2C). We are now in the process of linking all the different aspects of the system to avoid more food waste and further reduce CO2 emissions. Imagine all the things we could do if we were more people working together!

I also discovered that people want/need purpose. They enjoy being part of something that benefits others, brings change and regenerates our planet. And now is the perfect time to work on this initiative as more and more people realize that to make things better, we need to change now!

And finally, never underestimate your dreams and the power we have! If you dream it and work on it, it will eventually happen, you have to be consistent and persevere.

Slow Food Heroes is a funded project by the European Cultural Foundation, with the contribution of the CRC Foundation.

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