Agroecology from A to Z

Adventures in Agroecology and Food Systems


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The Automat, no longer exclusively for fast food

While riding my bike back to Wageningen from a Phytopathology department lab outing to the nearby zoo in Rhenen, I almost fell off my bike when I saw this farm automat. Out by the road in front of the van Laar family’s Boerderij Welgelegen there is a unique sort of farm stand. This one is not on the honor system like so many road side stands in the US, but instead anyone with a hankering for fresh eggs, recently dug potatoes or farm-made jam feeds some Euro coins into the machine, punches in a code and retrieves their goodies. I was intrigued to say the least!

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Family farm roadside automat, between Rhenen and Wageningen

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Doors are numbered for purchasing choices like a vending machine

Automats have a long history in both the Netherlands and the US all the way back to the early 1900s. They are basically the same concept as vending machines, although for the hot snacks someone has to prepare the food and load it into the back of the machine. Belgium is working on a fully automated frittes (French fries, or should I say Belgian fries, with mayo) vending machine so hot food automats could become much more automated in the future. Both vending machines and automats sell almost anything you can imagine, I loved seeing the fresh bait vending machines in the Northeastern US that sold live worms for fishing. Besides being adorable and fun, automats have been in the food system news recently as many fear that the current struggle for living wages in the fast food industry in the US could create an incentive for more automation and eventually decrease employment opportunities.

Amsterdam train station

Modern fast food automat at Amsterdam central station

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Vintage automat from the 1950s at the Openluchtmuseum in Arnhem
Caption translates to: The automatic vending machine is a Dutch invention from around 1900. The machines were used primarily for the sale of confectionery. In the 50s, machines were designed ​​for the sale of heated snacks.

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I wasn’t kidding about the live bait vending machines! This one is at a gas station in Central NY.

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I’m not sure what grass crabs are, but I’m sure fish must find them delectable

 

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Typical US farm stand from the cabbage producing region of Western NY (Livingston County). It is on the honor system with a little box for you to put cash in.

Update: a fun video from Fans of Flanders on bread vending machines.

 

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SAEA 2012 Gathering Together Farm, Philomath, OR

During the 2012 Sustainable Agriculture Education Association conference, we got to tour a regional farm, Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, OR. Not only do they produce wholesale vegetables, run an on-site farm stand and restaurant, sell at 9 farmers’ markets, run a 350 family CSA, but they also operate a seed business. Join us as we cover topics like organic soil nutrient management in unique soils with naturally high magnesium, how the Willamette Valley became the global hub for vegetable seed production, regionally adapted seed production and season extension.

Many folks, especially those who grew up in urban and suburban areas, haven’t heard of or seen a grange. Does the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry ring a bell? No? Years ago, I had the pleasure of being invited to speak at the Live Oak (#503) grange in Santa Cruz, CA by the organization that was funding my research at the time, the Organic Farming Research Foundation. I learned about the history of the populist grange movement and a modern movement to revitalize many of the US’s dying grange halls with a sustainable agriculture twist.

Gift for the grangers / J. Hale Powers & Co. Fraternity & Fine Art Publishers, Cin'ti. ; Strobridge & Co. Lith. Cincinnati, O. Promotional print for Grange members showing scenes of farming and farm life. Source: Wikipedia

Gift for the grangers / J. Hale Powers & Co. Fraternity & Fine Art Publishers, Cin’ti. ; Strobridge & Co. Lith. Cincinnati, O. Promotional print for Grange members showing scenes of farming and farm life. Source: Wikipedia

Back in the Willamette Valley, Mary’s River Grange #685 hosted conference goers for an amazing local food dinner catered by Gathering Together Farms and shared their efforts to organize green granges in Oregon, “The Green Grangers“.

Game hens and eggplant. I don't usually post photos of food, but this meal was so amazing, and to eat it in a Green Grange, was quite a treat!

Game hens and eggplant. I don’t usually post photos of food, but this meal was so amazing, and to eat it in a Green Grange, was quite a treat!