At the irish meeting 8 people came together for a mindful eating experiment: starting with the blessing and an intense experience with just one raisin, followed by choosing food in silence, eating in silence and eating while talking.
In Sieben Linden we visited the other cooperative I’m involved with, Raw Living Germany. Raw Living has long been established in England for more than 13 years now. The manager of it, Chris Wood, is a friend and for quite some time he has been looking for someone to build up Raw Living Germany, for he didn’t have the time do it himself. Two and a half years ago the time was right and me and 3 other Sieben Linden residents excited about raw food decided to go for it. Soon afterwards one dropped out and only two of us carried the main work load for the first two years. Today, Raw Living provides an income for 9 people from Sieben Linden and the neighboring village. For Sieben Linden this is a great chance to get money into the local economy from outside.
The raw food movement in Germany has long been dominated by grumpy old men (warning: exaggeration!). For the last 5 years or so there has been a change and the gourmet raw movement swapped over from the U.S. and U.K. and created more and more interest.
It was a once in a lifetime chance for us – Chris literally gave us a fully developed company. All we had to do was to translate the website into german. From the start, we could use every product (we started with about 150) and the work that went into it and its development from the english company (Today we have more than 500 products in stock). With the internet marketing and distribution of food and all other goods became very easy, regardless where you are situated. Of course, you need access to the internet and a room to store and box the products.
It is open to debate, whether people in Europe really need “Superfoods” from all over the world. We all prefer to eat as locally as possible. Questions, that remain: Are our european soils healthy enough to provide healthy food after decades of conventional abusive agriculture? Shouldn’t we, in a globalised world, support organic and fair producers in other parts of the world? Shouldn’t everyone get the best of both (all) worlds? Long distance trading and exchange of goods has always been part of human civilisation (we dont sell food that has been transported by plane).
We at Raw Living have high environmental and social standards. Where ever possible, we look for organic and fair trade. Also searching for and using the most environmental friendly packaging is a main objective. We started with very little money and therefor had to make compromises. But as the business and the income is growing, the opportunies for ethical solutions grow with it. There are even friends of us, who had set up Raw Living in Netherlands just recentliy. Every company is and will be independent, but connected with the others by personal relationships. This will have positive impacts on every one of us. Raw Living becomes more and more a europe-wide cooperative and community.
Of course, Raw Living operates in a capitalist environment and has to be in the black in order to survive. But we are a cooperative and free to say no to inhumane neocon bullshit and to stay human.
At our meeting in Sieben Linden we had a talk about vegan organic agriculture. Vegan organic agriculture by definition doesn’t (ab)use any animals or their so called by-products like manure, slurry, blood and bone meal etc. It seems to be a new unconventional technique but when you think about it it is longer around than you would expect. For instance, our ancestors didn’t always kept as much animals as nowadays. Therefor farmers relied on green manures like leguminous plants (clover etc.) to feed the soil. And today also many farmes have no “lifestock” to really speak of and thus not enough animal manure at hand. This is officially called “stockless” farming. Although consciously vegan organic farmers prefer the terminus “stockfree”.
The vegan organic (or stockfree) movement started in England at the end of the last millenium. The Vegan Organic Network was founded by long time political activists who felt the need to address the basis of culture – agriculture. To them “conventional” organic agriculture wasn’t the end of the flagpole. Organic farming doesn’t question animal “husbandry” in general. In fact non-human animals are seen as essential to the nutrient cycle in organic systems. This is, mildly put, a myth for no animal creates nutrients out of thin air. Animals eat plants, the same plants vegan organic farmers use to get nutrients into the system.
Non-human animals are a detour in the nutrient cycle. For ethical and many other reasons it makes sense to take them out of the equation. To name but a few reasons: Animal farming takes up more than two third of all farmland in Europe and also worldwide; Animal farming is responsible for 20 to 30 percent of green house gases in the atmosphere; Water and air pollution by animal “by-products”; Waste of food that could be consumed by humans directly; Human health issues due to too much consumption of “animal products” and so forth – and, of course, the non-essentiality of consuming any “non-human-animal products” for human animals to stay healthy and alive (especially in our moderate climate european countries).
If we really want to close the nutrient cycle – and it is obviously necessary in order to create sustainable farming systems – we need to think hard about human faeces and urine, for we are at the end of the agricultural food chain and therfor our humanure has to somehow get back into the system.
Vegan organic farming requiers more skills and knowledge by the farmer as does organic or “conventional” farming. It is no wonder that the so called conventional farming is taking up most of the land in Europe. But comfort should never be the main objective in our lives, especially not if other humans and non-humans are affected by our practices. There are many good examples of vegan agriculture around the world to inspire us. Just search for it on the internet.
Wilde-7 is one example how with the internet everyone can spread information and find new ways of making a living with the individual resources at hand.
For me it began with a book on a tv-broadcast on edible wild garden weeds, back in the late 1990s. First, it was just one of many interesting things in my life I didn’t learn about in school. During my study in Organic Agriculture I stumbled over wild edibles here and there again. But only after finishing my study and moving to Ecovillage Sieben Linden my interest in this topic became more solid. New opportunities presented themselve: mainly a big organic garden area with a huge diversity of wild plants and other people familiar with wild edibles.
We heard about a woman living 60km near to Sieben Linden with a small allotment and a wild herb delivery online-service. We contacted and visited her to see how she works. Our conclusion afterwards: We can do this, too. And have even better preconditions. We had enough knowledge about wild edibles, we had a variety of plants growing at Sieben Linden which grow happily by themselve, and we were two.
The biggest obstacle was customers – how to reach them and how to make the plants available to them. Nowadays it is very easy to build a simple website in a few steps and there are several free open source webshop systems available. When we started in 2008 it wasn’t that easy. We were lucky a friend built us a database based on Microsoft-Access for ridiculously little money. He set up a shop for us based on a free open source software. We had – and still have – not enough IT-skills that would allow us to do it ourselves. This is still our achilles heel: For everything technical we need support from outside.
Once the online shop was set up and working we needed only two knifes and two baskets to collect the herbs with, a shed to pack and box them and a contract with a courier company to get the boxes to our customers countrywide – and, of course – customers.
We both kept on doing what we did so far: working in the Sieben Linden organic garden, giving seminars and other small things to make a living in such a remote area of Germany. Financially, we didn’t depend on Wilde-7 to be successful from the start. That gave us the luxury to start small and see how it goes. To get first customers we sent out a newsletter to friends, family and the network of Sieben Linden supporters. And we got response enough to give it a start! After that new customers just found us by searching for ‚wild plants‘ on the internet or by hearing from others about us. We never spent money on any advertisements.
The first year we made no profit to really speak of for the whole season april till october 2008. We sent out the fresh wild herbs on mondays and thursdays. We started with 1-2 kg in 10-20 boxes a week. There were already other wild herb delivery businesses running in Germany we compared prizes with. We had to somehow find out what to charge our customers. Interestingly, these businesses seem to be a german phenomenom. We often get contacted by people from Austria and Switzerland who tell us that they couldn’t find a similar delivery service in their countries. We wonder why. Especially when it is so simple to set it up. There seems to be enough demand for it. And wild plants grow literally everywhere. For free.
Today, we send out 90-100 boxes with 25-35kg fresch wild herbs weekly. The most limiting factor is not the availability of fresh wild plants but time: We can only start at sunrise and have to have everything ready for delivery at noon, when the courier comes to get the boxes. (Usually, the boxes reach the customers the next day. No expensive Express delivery neccessary). Sunrise differs during the season – in spring and late summer we have up to 3 hours less time for everything than in june, but usually not less orders. Therefore we employ 2-3 people every season to help us. To them it is the best opportunity to sustainably learn about wild plants, for this is the best way to do it: Going outdoors regularly with someone who knows something about it. We, personally, never learned by reading books. Our knowledge also expanded over the years so that the diversity of wild plants known to us grew as well and with it the amount of fresh matter we were able to collect and send out.
However and whenever we can we still educate the wider public about wild edibles and how to identify and to collect them. We don’t think our business will be affected by more and more people getting the confidence again to get out and collect wild plants themselves. We love when people do that. It is one step towards food souvereignity. And it changed our perspective, how we see nature: As life nurturing mother rather than a beast that is out to get us. And that we must do everything we can to stop the destruction our western capitalist lifestyle creates.
Go for it!
This Film is a little teaser for the upcoming Zine. It was made at Posada del Valle, Asturias, Spain, at the first meeting of our learning partnership. Julia and Sebastian visiting Viktor, a neighbour, to get some fresh kale for a typical asturian meal: kale and chestnut stew. That day we prepared a cooked and a raw version (recipe at the end of the film).
Here is our first little documentary, filmed at Posada del Valle, Asturias, Spain, during the first learning partnership meeting in november 2013.
There was no script, only the idea and a just-do-it-approach. So Cristina and Jörg went into the garden of our venue and filmed everything that didn’t run away quick enough. Afterwards Jörg just glued the snippets together and – voilà!
Jörg could be seen as some kind of wild herb ‘expert’ for he has 10 years of experience in this field by now.
This film is in english, with latin subtitles for the wild plants.