Last month, on a Thursday afternoon, I finally got to visit an inspiring place I was intrigued about since I was in Ljubljana: Livada LAB. Indeed, I had discovered the existence of this project dedicated to youth, which goal is to reconnect them with nature and empower them through the maintenance of a green space. As gardening projects often involve older people only, I was immediately interested in discovering this inspiring initiative.
After contacting them via email, my boyfriend and I met there with one of the project’s coordinators, Tanja. It was one of the first warm afternoons we had experienced in Ljubljana, the sun making our skin very hot. We took the bus more than thirty minutes, discovering a part of Ljubljana we had never been before: Rudnik. Our first impression of the neighborhood, as often while considering Ljubljana, was this fascination that we are still in a European capital city, whereas we are in a residential area we could find in our small French towns. And this nature that remains predominant and beautiful.
When you got there, you first have to cross some sort of pasture where tall grass grows and where bees and other insects fly – Tanja will explain us later that this part is not ideal for gardening, making them prefer to leave it as a “wild area” where the bees and maximum biodiversity are preserved. Then, we reached the back of the garden, where Tanja quickly began to show us every nook and cranny of it. We discovered something particularly great and fascinating, where numerous vegetables, plants, including medicinal ones, trees and so on, coexist all together.
We were first intrigued by the different wooden structures that stand across the place. Some, in the middle of the pasture part, are dedicated to the visitors – especially the young ones – who can just climb them or lie on to rest. But another one, in construction, may soon have solar panels on it. Another one, higher and more sophisticated in the part where the gardening happens, was built at the beginning of the project, in 2014. Livada LAB started with the collaboration of students from the biology and architecture faculties of Ljubljana. The first ones did a study of the soil to determine the gardening perspectives for the place. The second ones did a plan of the property and built this very useful wooden structure, that can contain gardening tools, a water tank, and even a water closet! When we were there, they were also trying to upcycle an old umbrella and put it on another water container to collect rain. Right away, we understood that Livada LAB was mainly about experimentations and open-mindedness to everyone’s ideas to make that place evolve to the best.
Then, Tanja presented us the part where gardening happens. She soon explained to us that anyone who has an idea could get its own part to experiment it. And we quickly saw the differences between her style of gardening and the one from the others. Indeed, she likes when things are, let’s say, a bit “messy”: she makes coexist flowering plants with vegetables, nothing is in order, tidy, considering it is more vibrant and lovely to see, allowing bees to come and do their work – and I have to say, I quite agree with her on this vision. While just next to her part, her colleague is growing things in a very organised and tidy way. She also presented us the different experimentations she has been doing, with raised beds, with round structures made of branches or in little homemade greenhouses.
And, at the end, we probably spend more than thirty minutes to talk. Tanja emphasized on their project from the past year, “Sustainable Livada LAB” – if you want to know more about that project, I made an article on it for Focus‘ website! Through her explanations, we quickly understood that youth is really the centerpiece of Livada LAB. The goal is definitely to provide young people a “safe place” where they can reconnect with nature, avoiding them spending too much time locked themselves inside. In the meantime, young people are also offered the possibility to take part in events and projects: they learn more about the environmental issues and gain more confidence by being included in the thinking process about the future of Livada LAB. Empower young people to realize their ideas.
Those initiatives are more than valuable, to make young people realize they can organize themselves and making a project evolve according to their desires and their vision of how desirable future should be, one that respects the environment. The learning on these issues offered by Livada LAB through its projects is also fundamental. It enables our young generation, who will undoubtedly face difficulties in terms of climate, to arm ourselves against these worrying prospects.
We spent such a pleasant moment at Livada LAB and felt even lighter and inspired. Being there for one hour and a half, in nature, with mountains in the distance… it just made us realize that those initiatives are so important to our health and wellbeing, especially in polluted cities that are getting warmer and warmer.
Link to my latest article about Livada LAB on Focus‘ website: https://focus.si/sustainable-livada-lab-reconnecting-youth-with-nature/
Livada LAB’s social medias: