AMS Esther Veen

Healing Gardens

Esther Veen

Wageningen University & Research, Rural Sociology Group
Food in the city, benefits of urban green

Esther works on the Healing Gardens project for the Flevo Campus in Almere. Healing Gardens studies the effects of communal vegetable gardening on physical and mental well-being of people with chronic diseases.

People with a chronic disease often find it hard to get enough physical exercise and to eat healthy. While this is true for most people, it is specifically important for this group – and leading a healthy life helps them stay fit or regain their straight. In this project, we are investigating whether it would make it easier for people to get physical exercise and eat fruit and vegetables if they do something that they enjoy which would simultaneously provide these benefits – such as gardening. Gardening is in the open air (providing vitamin D), is a physical activity, and gives easy access to healthy food. Moreover, it can be done in a group and is, therefore, a natural way to get in touch with and talk to others in similar situations. This is important, as research shows that social support from peers is very important for patients, whereas not everyone enjoys taking part in a ‘talking group’. Hence, in this project we aim to understand what it means for people with chronic diseases to engage in communal vegetable gardening, looking specifically at both physical and mental well-being.


Prof. Ellen Kampman, PhD

Dr. Esther Veen acquired her PhD with the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University, studying community gardens in the Netherlands. The title of her thesis is Community gardens in urban areas: a critical reflection on the extent to which they strengthen social cohesion and provide alternative food. She now works as a teacher for the same chair group, giving courses on the sociology of eating and food. She is particularly interested in food in/and the city, the different ways in which urban people acquire food, and the various reasons they have to do so.

Esther is a member of the Metropolitan Solutions Consortium (MetSol) at Wageningen University & Research, that is aiming to co-develop, test and refine metropolitan solutions together with citizens, businesses, and public actors through an integrated living lab approach, based mainly in Amsterdam, and connected to the national and international context.