A fieldtrip with students of the Humboldt University Berlin to the farmlands of Brandenburg

Peter Kirch, a GSW Young Professional participant, organized a two-part seminar on sustainable soil management for 38 young students of the life science faculty of the Humboldt University Berlin. After a day in the lecture room with the topic “Sustainable use of soils – a basis for sovereign food production”, they took a trip to the farm “Spörgelhof”, located approximately 30 km north of Berlin.

The “Spörgelhof” is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. CSA is a community project between the farmer and a group of consumers. In this type of food production a group of consumers gives the farmers a purchase guarantee, in the form of a membership fee, for example. With this investment the farmer can then plant local fruits and vegetables, in consultation with the members. Through this kind of agriculture, regional and local food production and sustainable diet are promoted; the consumer knows where his food comes from, how it was grown and that the farmer is paid fairly for it. And the farmer can feel a direct appreciation of his work (http://www.justfood.org/csa).

On their way to the Spörglerhof, the students could see conventional agricultural land use, which is a familiar sight to them. In stark contrast to this type of farmland, is the Spörglerhof farm, which works according to the keyline – principle. The Keyline principle relies on more efficient use of water resources and sustainable land use, to increase the natural potential of the landscape. Various landscape elements such as water, plants and topography are effectively combined to protect soil (www.keyline.com.au).

After exploring the Spörgelhof in greater detail and the management method had been explained, the participants were able to lend a hand. They learned – through direct contact with the soil – how to increase soil fertility through various methods. This was not only interesting, but also gave a realistic insight into the daily work of a farmer. The excursion was an eye-opening experience for many participants and showed how agriculture can, and should, be made in order to ensure long-term healthy soil.

CSA gives the possibility to everyone to actively shape agriculture – and anyone can join!

A farm in Freiburg is a successful example of a CSA farm. It is a co-op with 260 members who are participating in successful organic vegetable gardening in the southwest German city of Freiburg, sharing the costs and risks. Whether the harvest is good or poor, it is distributed to all of the members equally. Seasonal agriculture, totally organic growing, local distribution, collective property, education, and sharing of labor are some of the many hallmarks of the farm. More information about this example of a CSA and a short film can be found here.

peter_kirch_portraitPeter Kirch, from Schleiden, Germany researches visual site assessment methods at the Humboldt University Berlin to evaluate soil quality in the field without technical equipment.

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