Skolehagen and Geitmyra food culture center appear as idyllic neighbors at Sagene. In reality, they are bitterly at odds with each other.
– It is frustrating to say the least. To be opposed. It takes the focus away from the most important thing: teaching children and young people about growing and enjoying food.
Renate Fuglseth heads Geitmyra food culture center in Oslo – better known as celebrity chef Andreas Viestad’s red farmhouse right next to Ullevål hospital.
The conflict she refers to is about the centre’s nearest neighbour, Geitmyra school garden. Apparently, the two actors should have been able to cooperate closely. Instead, they have ended up in a bitter, years-long conflict.
The core is a “visitor greenhouse” The Food Culture Center will build in a corner of the school garden.
The idea is a building for cultivation courses, homework help, district dinners, cultivation, play and learning for both children and adults.
– We believe there is room for many more children and young people on the 40,000 square meters of green oasis in the middle between east and west, says Fuglseth.
No to private individuals
The Food Culture Center was awarded the contract to build the house following a concept competition announced by the City Environment Agency. The goal was increased activity in the school garden. The drawings are ready, and the permission to start is in the box.
But the original users, the school garden, are by no means thrilled:
They react to the fact that the new building will seize an area where children play. They fear that the school children who grow in the garden will be displaced. And they are very critical of a private actor being allowed into a publicly owned and operated area.
Why right now?
– The school garden has had a lot of activity, but very little money, says Siv Sinober in Aksjonen Vern Geitmyra.
– Why should the municipality now buy private services from those who operate on the other side of the fence, she asks.
She believes it is paradoxical that the food culture center is not allowed to open right now. After years of “starvation”, Geitmyra is to be further developed into a competence center for school gardens.
Headmaster Tore Faller, who has been the only employee for 29 years, will have three new colleagues.
– Now we are ready to run far more outward-facing business, he says.
He describes the situation as “almost full-on war over the fence”.
– A competitor who sells his services is getting uncomfortably close.
Complaint to the Planning and Building Agency
The action group has complained about changes to the framework permit in the hope of stopping the neighbour’s plans. The complaint is now being processed by the Planning and Building Agency.
– But can’t the two players work together and supplement each other?
– No. The whole concept of the school garden is that it is publicly run, says Sinober in the action group.
– In addition, the new building will be very dominant. We are talking about a historic area.
She also believes that the project should have gone through a full regulatory process, including public consultation. Now it is treated as a building matter.
Hoping for cooperation
Renate Fuglseth in the Food Culture Center does not see herself as a competitor.
– We have an agreement with the Swedish Education Agency on teaching food and health subjects. The school garden does not offer that, she says.
She praises the action group for fighting to preserve the school garden. But sorry that the neighborhood has ended in conflict.
– That we have become the ugly wolf and the enemy is a shame. We want nothing more than to open the school garden to even more people, she says.
Literally, too, she wants to open more gates. In a neighborhood survey last year, several answered that they had never been to the school garden because it was perceived as closed.
They are now aiming to start construction in a week and a half. Then she hopes the hatchet can be buried.
– Think what we can achieve together! That more people are fighting to teach children about cultivation and food is really a luxury problem.