Agroecology from A to Z

Adventures in Agroecology and Food Systems

The Automat, no longer exclusively for fast food

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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!


Family farm roadside automat, between Rhenen and Wageningen


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


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.


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


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



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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