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Seven Questions: Meet Madzy Korte, Environmental Sciences Graduate

Welcome Madzy. Could you share your story and journey leading up to Baking Lab?

My name is Madzy, 24 years old. I grew up in Putten, a small town in the center of the Netherlands. I moved to Amsterdam to do a Master’s in sustainable urban planning. 

I worked for almost two years at Baking Lab. Initially, I was looking for a job on the side so I started working in the cafe. I knew that sustainability and circularity were important values and I was curious to learn how they were put into practice. These words are often “empty signifiers”, so I wanted to experience what they meant for this bakery.  Quickly, I found out that Baking Lab is much more than just a bakery cafe, that sells good products. One example is that it really brought circularity into practice. Old bread and fruit pulp have become key ingredients in many dishes and products. Baking Lab is reaching a point where we almost need to be worried that we don’t have enough of it, instead of wasting it.

Both your studies and work are linked to sustainability. What made you passionate about it? 

After I graduated high school, I became aware of the ecological crisis. It hit me hard because I had barely learned anything about it up until that time. But this crisis is about the future of all planetary life. I’m convinced we must take better care of the earth’s resources, animals, plants, and ourselves. I feel the urgency to act, to do something. I cannot and do not want to let this topic go in my life.

As such, I changed my choice of studies from politics to environmental sciences in 2017. I also changed my own consumption patterns. Of course, these changes first felt like sacrifices. However, I perceive them now as values, an integral part of who I am, and I’ve been trying to live according to them for eight years.

As we speak, we are all experiencing the impact of climate change. How do you feel about the situation now – stuck or hopeful?

Ummh, this is a difficult question. You can become very desperate and sad about what is happening. At the same time, I also see people working hard to come up with different ways of thinking and doing. For example, I find regenerative agriculture a very inspiring practice. It is a way of farming that facilitates and promotes diversity over eliminating other life forms that might threaten the productivity of your land. These kinds of approaches show me that it is actually possible to make things better. We can prove how a different way of life is possible. So I’m not optimistic about the situation, but I try to have active hope.

Regenerative agriculture sounds very interesting! Is there any specific initiative that inspired you?

There’s a regenerative farm called Bodemzicht (now at ‘t Gagel in Lochem) close to Nijmegen. I once joined a tour of their farm and was fascinated by their radically different approach to agriculture. If there’s damage to their cabbages, they don’t ask how to get rid of the insects. Instead, they ask what type of life they are missing. They are rebuilding reciprocal relationships with the earth.

I think that’s beautiful. When you take something away, think about what you can give in return. This is one of the reasons I started volunteering in a community garden at Science Park. It is a permaculture vegetable garden and a food forest, mostly run by volunteers. It’s a small place, yet there are a great number of bees, birds, and plants. It’s astonishing how all this life is possible and will flourish if we give it time, attention, and space. And all that in a city like Amsterdam! 

Don’t we also try to build another way of life at Baking Lab?

For sure! We are trying to create a cafe, where social and environmental values are at the core of the business. This is not “’normal”, so we have to experiment and learn from all the things we do. This creates a type of “experimentation culture” in Baking Lab that pleasantly surprised me when I first started to work here. 

Also, I feel that there is an open space where we can think about what it means to be a sustainable bakery. I find it very interesting to openly discuss and ask questions about what we are doing. Whether we are reaching our goals in a way that we believe is in line with Baking Lab’s values for example. These moments of friction are where opportunities arise and create momentum to do things differently. 

What does Baking Lab represent to you?

Baking lab is a place where I feel connected to people. It is a community with different personalities who come here for different reasons, but we all feel responsible for taking care of the place. Even though some people only work for two days a week, I still feel that they’re passionate about Baking Lab. It is as simple as this: if you like baking and experimentation, Baking Lab will be your place. So you don’t need to share many things, besides your love for experimentation and baking. If that is set, the space will generate connections by itself. 

At Baking Lab I learned what it means to learn – and to want to learn. There’s a lot of trial and error in creating new products. If you make mistakes, learn from it and be creative, try to find a solution to avoid food waste. You can be part of business management. You can try out new bread recipes during your baking shift. You can teach workshops. This enabled me to think freely and… become more autonomous. You can really do (almost) whatever you want in Baking Lab. And I especially liked how all workshop teachers have found their own way of explaining why they love to bake bread.

What would be your next step Madzy?

I recently started an internship at Lenteland. It is an organization that is starting regenerative farms throughout the Netherlands. I hope to find out what I can do to contribute to this movement. I strongly believe food has a lot of potential to connect people among each other and to the land. So I hope to keep that environment in my future career.