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Master students Wytze Walstra and Sacha Brons have won the Create a Course Challenge with their idea for the course 'Food Forestry: Experiencing the Future of Nature and Agriculture'. This coming year, they will work with the IIS to further develop the course, which focuses on food forests.

During the live final of the Create a Course Challenge, the five finalist teams presented their idea for a new elective course to the judges and the audience on the Room for Discussion stage on the Roeterseiland campus. The host of the evening was lecturer Merel Talbi, who led the participants and the audience through the programme in an enthusiastic and entertaining manner.

The jury, consisting of Tessa Trapp, president of the UvA's Central Student Council, Luca Bertolini, scientific director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS), and jury chairman Peter-Paul Verbeek, rector magnificus of the UvA, judged the various ideas on five criteria: interdisciplinarity, social relevance, innovative forms of education, forms of testing and originality. 

It was not an easy choice for the jury, but 'Food Forestry: Experiencing the Future of Nature and Agriculture' eventually emerged as the winner. The 'experiental learning' part particularly appealed to the jury. Flowers were received and there was a toast to victory!

Reaction from the winners

Sacha Brons: "After months of planning, discussing, writing and presenting, Wytze Walstra and I are honoured that our course, Food Forestry: Experiencing the Future of Nature and Agriculture, has been chosen as the winner of the Universiteit van Amsterdam Create a Course Challenge! Our gratitude goes out to the organisers from the Instituut voor Interdisciplinaire Studies - UvA (IIS) and to the distinguished jury consisting of Peter-Paul Verbeek, Luca Bertolini and Tessa Trapp.

Starting from the academic year 2023-2024, students at the UvA will be able to follow an elective course that revolves around bridging the gap between nature and (agri)culture on a personal, academic and societal level. Visiting and studying food forests is the perfect vehicle for students to experience this paradigm shift.

This course can only exist because of the hard work of pioneers, visionaries and risk takers in the food forestry community. We thank you all for your inspiration and guidance. We can't wait to introduce our future students to you and build an even bigger and stronger community in the process!"

Source: LinkedIn Sacha Brons

Content of the course

In an interview with Folia earlier this week, Wytze said, "A food forest actually turns the relationship between agriculture and nature upside down. We think this story about food forests deserves a place at the UvA. Especially since, for example, the nitrogen crisis is now so prevalent in politics and social debate. Besides, other universities in the Netherlands are not doing much with this yet. It would really be a first for the UvA. During our course, we mainly want people to learn by going out and visiting food forests themselves. This is then supplemented with assignments, such as devising an intervention to support the transition from our ramshackle agricultural system to food forestry."

To train the next generation of farmers, we need education that looks beyond the separation between agriculture and nature. But universities are not yet picking up that role, or even pushing for further intensification of agriculture. Wytze Walstra

Wytze: "Sacha and I have known each other since high school. Then we also did the bachelor Future Planet Studies (FPS) together. At FPS, we actually came up with the idea for this course. We were working on a documentary for a course and then at the kitchen table, my father mentioned food forests and that he knows someone involved in them. We then visited the food forest of Wouter van Eck, the pioneer of food forests in the Netherlands. We were immediately excited. A food forest is actually a method of obtaining food, combining nature and agriculture without concessions."

More information

Every year, the IIS organises the Create a Course Challenge, in which we challenge students to submit their ideas for a new elective course at the UvA. In this way, students can play an active role and have a say in the way education is organised at the institute and within the university, and our education can continue to be socially relevant and innovative.