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Martien Lankester - Founder, Advisory Board Chair and Ambassador

Martien Lankester is the founder of  Avalon and served as its Executive Director from its establishment in 1991 until the end of 2022.

Martien was trained as a medical doctor and public health specialist and has been involved in organic food for over 50 years. Next to his medical practice, he set up an organic farm in 1977 to underline the need for sustainable food production. The broad multiple benefits of organic farming including those for human health, the relation between agriculture and nature/biodiversity/ecosystems, and the true cost of food production are important themes in his work.

In the early nineties, he established in Fryslân the foundation Soune Groun (Healthy Soil).

He was a member of the Advisory Council of Care Farm Gerbrandastate for 15 years.

Later he also chaired the Supervisory Board of IUCN Netherlands Committee for six years.

Martien is a member of World Connectors.


Personal motto:

The sustainable farmer is the doctor of the future who can heal the earth


He still likes working on his farm, where most of the grassland is being used by his nephew for his nearby biodynamic dairy farm, and where fruit juice, vegetables, and honey are being produced in the Hof van Edens by Martien and his wife Marike.

Martien Lankester (1949) was trained as a Medical Doctor (1975, University of Amsterdam) and a Public Health specialist (1987).

As a medical student, he was intrigued by preventative health care issues and the impact of lifestyle as a way to maintain and improve health. During his travels through Africa in 1970, he was struck by the compelling issue of food security. Combining the two, he started studying and practising food systems (organic, vegetarian, macrobiotics) and, with friends, established an organic restaurant in Amsterdam (1973).

After graduating as a medical doctor, he established a practice in Fryslân in the tiny village of Edens, giving nutritional and lifestyle advice (1976). Subsequently, he set up the biodynamic dairy farm Hof van Edens (Garden of Edens) and an organic food shop (1977) connected to his medical practice. With this, he aimed to show the relation between sustainable development, food production, nutrition, health, ecology, and nature. He also gave numerous lectures on these subjects in the Northern part of the country.

This led to a small group of dairy farmers converting to organic farming and a contract (possibly the first ever) between a major nature conservation organization and these farmers on nature-friendly management of their traditional pastures (1981).

Around 1990, he served for several years as chair of the National Biodynamic Association and as statutory chair of the National Platform for Organic Farming.


In 1991, he initiated and subsequently established the Avalon Foundation based on the needs expressed in Central and Eastern European countries (CEE). This international nonprofit organization has since been promoting organic agriculture and food, agrobiodiversity, and sustainable rural development in that region. Gradually, Avalon has broadened its scope to regions further South and East: Central Asia, the Caucasus, Turkey, and Africa. In more than 30 countries with developing economies, over 100 projects have been successfully implemented. Avalon’s work is based on local needs and ideas, involving and training local organizations and experts, with a small core staff, some associate experts, and numerous local partners. In 2008, the first branch office was established in Bulgaria.

Many of the projects have a multi-country character. Projects include training farmers and farm advisors, market chain development, demonstration farms, agri-environment policy development, and capacity building of organizations. Later, the beneficial effect of organic farming on biodiversity (leading to business and biodiversity projects) and climate issues became part of the Avalon agenda. In recent years, the urgent issue of True Cost Accounting has been added as a significant driver for Avalon. In 2020 Avalon has decided to focus on Bioregions as catalysts for change: regions where an integrated approach of agriculture, nature, food, and health may speed up the necessary transition of our agri-food systems.

Avalon has also organized many international conferences on these issues. Avalon’s Network of 200 organizations in 32 countries (all working on the cutting edge of agriculture, environment, and nature conservation) has received broad recognition (among others, funding from the EU DG Environment) as an important instrument for change.

Increasingly, Avalon seeks strategic alliances to create synergy.

Martien Lankester was the executive director of Avalon and has been the project leader of many multi-country projects and conferences. He has thus served as a goodwill ambassador for organic farming and sustainable rural development in the new market economies of CEE and beyond. He is a specialist in:

  • networking on different levels (NGOs, governments, embassies, scientists, businesses)

  • integrating organic agriculture with nature conservation, biodiversity, environment, food, health and climate

  • overseeing the complete value chain from farm to fork

  • coordinating complex, innovative processes

  • turning ambition into practice

He is currently working on strengthening the (informal) international coalition that will support the much-needed paradigm shift in food and agriculture.

Besides his work for Avalon Martien

  • has with his first wife Marjolein raised a family of six children, with now a dozen grandchildren…, 1975-……ongoing…

  • was one of the initiators and chairman of the Institute for Social Therapy OlmenEs, a community for mentally challenged adults, 1986-1991 

  • initiated and chaired the provincial foundation for organic farming Soune Groun and subsequently managed several of its regional projects, 1990-2002

  • has been chairman of the Supervisory Board of IUCN Netherlands Committee (the umbrella of nature conservation organizations), 2005-2011

  • has been a member of the Advisory Council of Care Farm Gerbranda State, 2003-2016

  • is an active member of World Connectors

He still likes working on his farm, where his nephew is using most of the grassland for his nearby biodynamic dairy farm. Martien and his wife Marike produce fruit juice, vegetables, and honey in the Hof van Edens.

Martien received public recognition for his work when

  • he was runner-up for the Sicco Mansholt prize in 2004 (behind EU Commissioner Franz Fischler)

  • he was appointed IFOAM Organics International Ambassador in 2017

  • he received the Royal Decoration of Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau in 2018

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