J. Hakkennes started Duurzame Kost about 5 years ago after a professional experience in animal husbandry and in social work. Duurzame Kost is an indoor vegetable farm right in the centre of Eindhoven which grows healthy and high-quality vegetables in an aquaponic system.
Characteristic to Duurzame Kost is its social dimension. Apart from Jos and his partner all employees are NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) who are physically and/or mentally challenged. According to Jos, the NEETs do not “work” for him but they are “in training” at Duurzame Kost. In fact, Jos offers very specific support to his NEETs by assisting them in their personal development in order to bring them a step forward in their personal life and professional career. Therefore, the main goal of Duurzame Kost is not to produce vegetables but to help his NEETs to re-enter the labour market.
Jos’ work is honoured by the public authorities by 70% of financial support for the labour costs of the NEETs which is important to ensure the economic viability of Duurzame Kost.
For Jos, “coproduction” always has to be very specific and depends on each NEET : Encouraging the NEETs and giving them the possibility to express themselves is already a form of coproduction and is very important for the development of NEETS, especially for those who suffer from a strong handicap.
Jos is convinced that growing vegetables in an aquaponic system offers many advantages to his specific situation :
The Luxembourgish project partners LTA (Lycée technique Agricole) and FPE (Forum pour l’Emploi) are in close contact with the responsible public authorities (employment agency …). In cooperation with the public authorities, the NEETs in the IMAGINE project are all people who are heavily challenged and who have major difficulties finding a job in the first job market.
The IMAGINE project offers them the opportunity to be accompanied very closely in order to bring them forward on a personal level and to give them a first experience in the production of vegetables, for a period of six months. Under the motto “I am OK, you are OK”, the self-esteem of the NEETs is developed and strengthened. The NEETs are animated to express themselves and thus to have a first experience in coproduction.
During the six month training period, the LTA provides some basic training in vegetable production, and also integrates aspects of hygiene and security.
The main goal of the project is to give the NEETs new personal and professional perspectives after having achieved the six month training period in the IMAGINE project. These may consist in getting back to school and following a regular education in vegetable production at LTA or finding a job. Our experience has shown, that you can’t force the NEETs in one specific direction. They have to be accompanied for a while, and later, they will have to find their own way themselves…
Society and public authorities have a social responsibility to care about NEETs. Both, the NL and the LUX examples show the possibilities and limits of enterprises integrating NEETs in market gardening and bringing them forward on a personal level.
To be successful, the following points have to be considered :
The IMAGINE project offers multiple opportunities to comply with all these aspects.
However the big challenge of getting NEETs into market gardening is to bring them to a level that they will be able to stand their ground in the first labour market after leaving the “protected” environment of the project.