Watersley Sports & Talentpark in Sittard will be expanded with a food supply of healthy and sustainable foods. The municipality of Sittard-Geleen, the Province of Limburg, and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development contribute financially through a subsidy from the LEADER South Limburg program. The work started on Monday 2 May 2022.

Growing food Watersley Sports & Talentpark is a campus where young (top) athletes from the Netherlands and abroad live, train, eat and spend their free time. In terms of food, the campus is well on its way to becoming completely self-sufficient. The park will grow its food for athletes and people from the area, as part of a social project.

"We have reserved about seven hectares for growing food," says project leader Jeroen Niessen. "We will then grow almost everything ourselves: from grains to fruit and from herbs to vegetables. We do this in a nature-inclusive way. There will be a vegetable garden, a greenhouse, and a run with chickens that will provide eggs. We also plant orchards with fruit and nut trees. We opt for unique food that is good for athletes, for example, the gluten-free grain type teff. We make pasta and bread ourselves, with grain from our terrain."

"We will start by restoring the monastery garden. The history of the site plays a major role in the project. Extensive research has been done into that history together with, among others, Vereniging Sittards Verleden. In previous centuries, food was already grown in the front yard of the cloister and prepared in the space that now functions as our kitchen, preserving the rich history of Watersley and giving the site a modern twist."

Tasting room
"The harvest from the monastery garden, among other things, is intended for our athletes, but also people from the neighborhood. A tasting room will be built in the old monastery, where we will cook for people. Our products will be brought to the Sittard market via a greengrocer with whom we work. And if there is enough food, we will also bring that to the elderly. Food that is healthy for the athlete is also healthy for seniors because it is full of nutrients."

Learning and development process
Young people who are at a distance from the regular labor market work on the campus. The food supply is given a place in their learning and development process. Together with Watersley, the Porthos Watersley counselors, and the local community, they learn about food and how to grow it.

Subsidies from LEADER South Limburg
Watersley Food Supply will receive approximately €110,000 from the LEADER Zuid-Limburg subsidy program, of which the municipality of Sittard-Geleen is contributing €44,000. Watersley's food project fits within the sustainability and health objectives set in the municipality's 2030 Vision for the Future. According to responsible alderman Pieter Meekels, this initiative ensures the conservation of Watersley and the associated estate. LEADER South Limburg is a European subsidy program that develops and strengthens the quality of life and economy in the countryside. The European Union, the Province of Limburg, and the South Limburgse municipalities make money available for this.

Thanks to LEADER, more than 20 projects have been created in South Limburg in recent years. "Watersley Food Supply is the first project to receive the green light since the opening of the new subsidy period in June 2021," says Hub Meijers, chairman of the Local Action Group that assesses the project applications. "About ten new projects are expected to follow in the coming months. We are currently working out the plans together with the initiators. It looks promising. We expect that great initiatives will be added to the existing LEADER projects and that we will complete the current LEADER period at the end of 2022."

"We are now also exploring the possibilities of LEADER for the new period from 2023-2027. We hope that, in addition to South Limburg, other areas in Limburg will also have the opportunity to participate. This way we can realize even more projects together. After all, that is what we do it for, to make Limburg more beautiful for the people of Limburg. This will be further elaborated in the coming months," ends deputy Lia Roefs.