On behalf of the Foundation Stichting De Bildtse Aardappelweken I welcome you Your Excellency Mr. Cole, Mr. Camenzuli, and everybody else present here. Thank you for being with us today. I feel honoured to speak to you on this very unique location: thank you Mr. van Gulick having us here.
In 2012 Leeuwarden decided to apply for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2018. We heard about this and mentioned to the initiators that we already have a long lasting potato relationship with Valletta, Malta, also ECoC in 2018 and were more than happy to cooperate with them. They were interested in what we had to offer and one thing lead to the other.
I visited Valletta for the first time together with Rudi Wester, cooperation coordinator of Leeuwarden 2018/Valletta 2018 in July 2012 and we discovered it was easy talking to each other. I am very glad I got the chance to visit Malta a few times more since then. I have seen and learned quite a bit about both Malta and Gozo, although there is still a lot unknown. For one thing the language. I bought study books and tried to learn some basics of Maltese, but I guess I will not be a fluent speaker by 2018. The language is simply too complicated for us.
Coming back to 2012. Although Malta is smaller than Fryslân and due to this the scale of farming is also different, it proved we have more in common than the very special economic relation with the potato in the lead. Both our countries are officially bilangual, we have the same number of inhabitants per square kilometre and we proved to get along perfectly. And we share a tradition in poetry.
Rudi Wester and I explained about our plan to send Frisian poetry along with our seed potatoes to Malta. The harvest of these seed potatoes: fresh new Malta potatoes and poetry comes back to Leeuwarden and is sold as the first fresh potatoes of the year.
Nothing new: it has been like this for about 150 years already. Special however is the fact, that Frisian poetry is attached to the bags of seed potatoes and this way entering Maltese households. Maltese poetry is read by a few thousand Dutch. Not only literary poetry is involved, also primary school children’s poetry is sent back and forth. Pleasant also is, that two schools for very special education are involved. Since 2014 the project Poetic Potatoes is running. The potatoes with poetry are packed in special printed jute bags.
We are reintroducing an old tradition. From advertisements in the paper Leeuwarder Courant we discovered it was usually at Easter the first Maltese potatoes were sold. After a long winter the quality of the local potatoes was poor. Easter stands for a new start. People were happy to have quality potatoes again to serve on their Easter family diner.
Tomorrow therefore the sale of the bags will start on the Friday market in Leeuwarden. A cook will show the visitors what they can prepare with the potatoes. Next week 18 supermarkets in Fryslân, Groningen and Drenthe will have cook demonstrations also. Many others will sell the special bags.
The project is drawing more and more positive attention. We learn people about the value of the potato in their daily life. Something that absolutely needs more caring. We try to make people aware of the way the modern arable farmers are doing their work. We therefore invite people to come and visit us, using all kinds of arts to tempt them to do so. This is what the main goal is of Poetic Potatoes and the other activities we develop for 2018. We already cooperate with companies like Rienks, Agrico and Greydanus, but also with several schools. From primary schools to universities we already have students involved. It feels good that we will show the next generation also about our way of working and make them aware of the values of being able to eat top quality food every day, grown by farmers in their neighbourhood.
Our Poetic Potatoes project, a cooperation between our foundation and literary magazine De Moanne, is also part of the program of Valletta 2018. Unique and the only project visible so explicit so far. As part of the program two Frisian poets visited Malta in January this year on invitation of the Dutch Embassy. They performed poetry on the embassy and other locations and gave a guest lesson writing poetry on the primary school of Qrendi. Maltese poets will visit Leeuwarden this year also.
Now it is time for something else. Malta potatoes have star qualities. And who can show that better than the chef cook of the awarded with a Michelin star restaurant of Landgoed Lauswolt. I would like to invite you all to enjoy this very special lunch with us.
But first I would like to give Ambassador Cole a book called: Fryslân from above. It includes a photograph of our municipality het Bildt, even our farm can be seen on it. It gives you a good impression of our beautiful province and maybe a reason for another visit.
Thank you.

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