Eco-social agriculture was a major topic at the Next Organic 2014 trade show. As part of the Neo Ecology megatrend this type of community farming is booming at the moment. It is especially popular with city dwellers: you receive fresh organic food that is locally (i.e. sustainably) grown and you can also choose to get involved in the planting/harvesting process, reconnecting with nature etc., all without having to move to the countryside. In Berlin and Brandenburg (the county that surrounds Berlin) there are several interesting social farming enterprises.
There are different types of farming projects. MeineErnte (lit. my harvest), for example, allows you to rent your own vegetable plot near the city/area you live in. Speisegut, on the other hand, is a solidarity farming project based in Berlin’s Spandau neighbourhood. Speisegut farms on two areas of land, one in Spandau and one near Potsdam. For a monthly fee you become a member of the farming community and regularly receive fresh fruit and vegetables. Three days a year (or more often if you want to) you help out with the planting and/or the harvest.
Bauerngärten (lit. peasant gardens) is an urban community farming project similar to Speisegut. Bauerngärten is located in Berlin’s Pankow area and offers the opportunity to rent a vegetable garden which is fully planted already. Bauerngärten is taking over the watering and agricultural maintenance of the plot and the “tenant” then harvests his or her own produce.
Most communal gardening projects that are based within the city limits of Berlin also have a strong social aspect. They act as a community center, offering local resident a peaceful space to interact and creatively work together. This helps social cohesion in the neighbourhood – something that is particularly important in the more deprived and socially troubled areas of the city.
One of these urban gardening projects is Himmelbeet (lit. heaven [vegetable] bed) which is based in Berlin’s Wedding neighbourhood. It’s an intercultural neighbourhood garden – people can get involved in the planting and harvesting of the communal garden area or rent their own little vegetable plot. There are also regular communal cooking events and workshops.
Prinzessinnengärten on Moritzplatz in Kreuzberg is probably the most high-profile urban gardening project in Berlin. It was founded in 2009 on an urban wasteland site and is run by non-profit association Nomadisch Grün. Prinzessinnengarten sees itself as a new urban place of learning.
Local Kreuzbergers and other Berliners help plant the communal gardens (there are also beehives – urban beekeeping is a major thing in Berlin at the moment!). Throughout the year (and especially during the summer season) there are different events and markets – like the Upcycling workshops organised by Material Mafia, the bi-monthly Kreuzboerg Flowmarket fleamarket or the annual city honey and beekeeping festival.
Educational workshops help children learn about nature and food, about organic agriculture and sustainable living. A garden café and restaurant (open from April to November) staffed by volunteers sells food made with regionally-grown ingredients – either from Prinzessinnengärten itself or from similar urban gardening projects and small organic farms in Berlin and Brandenburg. Prinzessinnengärten is a very cool place – a visit is highly recommended.