Urban Agriculturalist is a series on the ways city and suburb dwellers use their land as a food resource.
It is a truth well documented that community gardens foster unity among neighbors, but Germany’s Stiftung Interkultur has taken this logic a step further in the creation of its Intercultural Gardens. Communities in Berlin, Gottingen, Hamburg, and Munich (among others) are home to large and diverse immigrant populations, often living in close proximity. To encourage interaction and community spirit between German residents of all extractions, the Stiftung Interkultur has built a series of community gardens in which residents can share their gardening skills and horticultural knowledge with one another. The idea was born out of recognition that social exclusion plagued many new immigrants to Germany. Further, members of the discussions at Stiftung Interkultur felt that environmental and sustainable eating considerations were directed at the middle class, causing a secondary level of isolation that affected the health and eating practices of urban immigrants.
Gardening is an ideal tool to combat these institutionalized conditions because it provides a level playing field, with immigrants from places as disparate as Vietnam, Tajikistan and Bosnia finding value in the unique skills they can contribute and common ground surrounding agricultural practices that transcend nationality and culture. Many of the participants come from agricultural communities and can use the garden to keep old traditions alive. Even those who do not participate in the gardening itself are invited to enjoy the space as a public arena in which to socialize with neighbors.
Gardening participants believe that the approach of the Intercultural Gardens works because the procedures at the gardens are elastic: new participants are not ‘taught’ how to garden, rather their input is required to help the garden flourish. While they spend most of their time adapting to a new culture, immigrants can apply long-held skills to this important, neighborly endeavor.
For more information, see the Stiftung Interkultur website.
(Photo courtesy of Stiftung Interkultur)