A Walk on the Wild Side: agroecology and smart tourism in the Dutch countryside

The essence of the “Wild Side” landscape vision is new farming methods that will transform the site into an official “High Nature Value” area. This designation describes certain types of agriculture that increase the biodiversity and ecological health of farmland.

This plan has three layers. First, a network of hedgerows is re-established on existing parcel boundaries.This network of native species creates a diversity of animal habitats and connects nature areas.Hedgerows also yield biomass as well as a diversity of fruiting and medicinal plant species.

Secondly, agroforestry or forest farming is established. In conjunction with the hedgerow network, stands of trees are planted for fruit, wood, or biomass. Here we have taken the example of Acer saccharum common in North America. These natural stands of trees yield sugar. Orchards and nurseries are also part of the agroforestry strategy.

Biodiversity in the hedgerow and agroforestry areas is augmented through a diversity of spatial conditions. Buffer zones, rhythms of closed and open spaces, and the corridor effect of the whole system will create and maintain much higher levels of indigenous biodiversity.

Thirdly, the economic possibilities of farmers are further expanded by tourism. New vacation cabins are located in the “chambers” formed by the agroforestry zones and hedgerow system. These weekend getaway residences provide an intimate experience of tranquility and nature. Accessible only by small paths, the houses require very little new infrastructure and are self-reliant for energy production and waste recycling, as well as providing a high level of additional income for the farmers.

The future of Twente can be shaped by a combination of these integrated elements: strengthened nature, renewed agriculture, and enlightened tourism.