[This article was originally written in German]
2000 m² = approx. ½ acre of land. What is its potential?
To use an old comparison: the average soccer field is 3.5 times as big. On 2000 m² you could build around 83 gazebos or a parking lot for around 200 cars. Or you could farm.
A half acre is the amount of land every person would be entitled to when you divide the 1.4 billion hectares on the earth’s surface by the approximately seven billion humans currently living on the planet. Grazing land has not been included, whereas land for the cultivation of feed crops, fiber plants and energy crops have. 2000 m², useless without deforesting woodlands and draining wetlands. A half acre, the productivity of which seemingly cannot be increased without more pesticides and mineral fertilizers, and all this with an exponentially growing global population.
On a field with a lake view in the Spandau neighborhood, Gatow, a group of people have devoted themselves to an experiment: farming precisely half an acre. On about 10×200 meters lined with fruit trees they have done a small-scale planting of the world’s most common crops according to their respective land usage, hence the name: Worldly Field.
SpeiseGut, a Berlin CSA project, furnished them with the land. Next to it are spherical cottage gardens with planted plots you can rent, water and harvest yourself. That is to say, it is at home in an already agriculturally experimental setting.
On April 25th and 26th a project weekend kicked off this year’s season and with it the symbolically significant attempt by one man, the chef Florian Kliem, to subsist on his half an acre for a whole year. For those involved the optimism that it will work is so great that one guest per week will be fed in addition. Although the average amount of land required to feed one European is approx. 2/3 acre (2,700 m²), that is, more than his due, space for feed crops has been omitted in the Spandau experiment. Aside from self-harvested honey, a purely plant-based food supply is the plan.
The year of the Worldly Field began with an official inauguration by Ms. Hube of the Spandau Conservation and Parks Department and handcrafting rather creepy-looking scarecrows.
There was a composting workshop, which was actually more of a personal consultation, since the soil, amount and kind of organic waste that is available to you influence the composition of your compost.
Nibbles included: vegan burgers, organic bratwurst with potato wedges, and coffee and cake.
Hard-working hands volunteered and started sowing potato seeds in the sandy Berlin soil. The planting plan for 2015 is set to include: grains, sunflowers and oil seeds, legumes, more root vegetables, cabbage and other leafy greens, buckwheat, onions, herbs and various rarities.
Seeds from ornamental plants and agricultural crops were offered to take home. All day long you could also take home “seed bombs,” the guerrilla gardening classic: seed mixes balled up in dirt for throwing in and thereby greening urban spaces.
A field rally, intended for kids ages 7 – 12, was very informative for people of all ages, welcoming a fun engagement with the issues of regionalism, worldwide eating habits, throwing away food, and land usage (one liter of sunflower oil requires almost double the land of 250 g of schnitzel).
The answer to the quiz at the end was a question: “What’s growing on your worldly field?”
And these are precisely the issues the Worldly Field team is trying to shift into public focus. This is why they are conducting this symbolic experiment – with offshoots already in Sweden and China – to get people thinking about their consumer sovereignty, to show them that their choices can indeed have far-reaching consequences. In this vein, they have come up with two fictional characters, Carla Giardini and Ben Wissler, who in a concise, yet informative and entertaining manner, explain the link between individual diet and agriculture, personal consumption patterns and at times highly destructive production structures. Private donations and foundation grants fund the project; there is no intention for it to be commercialized. Volunteers help with much of the work. And more are always welcome.
Paying a visit is well worth your while, as there are always events happening where you can actively support this project. Traveling to S-Bahnhof Wannsee, then with the BVG ferry to Kladow and taking a beautiful, half-hour walk along the river Havel make for quite a lovely excursion.