There's nothing devious about a garden plot

The other day my dear American friend sent me this picture stating how fortunate I was to be living in a cute little wooden house in a green country (indeed! We are leaders in the  Environmental Performance Index Rankings)



This was the plain cliché an average Swiss person has about their fellow citizens. And what is the job of any journalist who wants to be taken seriously? To rectify (or confirm) prejudices. OK, so I am a recreational blogger, but still, I wanted to find out more about this phenomenon and started asking around for people who own a "Schrebergarten" as we call it. 
The historical background goes back to the mid 1,800s when the German government gave poor people little patches to grow veggies. Schrebergarten on Wikipedia

These days nobody in Western Europe is starving - at least not from lack of food. But maybe from a little fresh air and downtime away from the busy city, which is true for many people. That's why associations who manage allotment gardens have to keep waiting lists and prioritize on who gets to lease a patch. Families with kids are in luck. It is considered especially important that children get in touch with nature. Why? 
Obviously these days the little ones seem to think milk comes from the supermarket even though in Switzerland there's even held  a "yearly milk day" - I have to confess, i missed it. What was I doing on April 20?
Back to the allotment gardens. Via friends I found two people who own one of them. This is what they have to say:

Yvonne and her husband have been renting their 2,000 square feet garden patch for 22 years. Since her husband died she shares the space with a friend. They enjoy some gardening: planting berries, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes and herbs. But mostly they like to relax and bake a pizza in their special wood fired oven. Unlike in other garden patches, they have a water connection, a stove and a fridge in their cabin. Not that they would really need it - the wainscot paneled toolshed remains cool even on warm summer days, so they've got chilled wine at all times ;-)



Yvonne's garden is one of a dozen allotment gardens that belong to "die Post", yes, you remember, the one I talked about in Service Culture in Switzerland. Renting the lots to give people an opportunity to kick back instead of selling it to some conglomerate that would construct a parking deck or something equally soul-less is probably one of the best things I hear they do. 

Other, larger allotment gardens like in Zurich are governed by associations that set strict rules like the height of a fence, what kind of shrubs you are allowed to plant and even that you are only supposed to grow regional plants following eco friendly practices. It is also stated that you are not supposed to use your spot commercially. 


So no growing and selling of veggies, no renting out your spot as a parking lot (which would actually be lucrative as a garden patch lease is less than a parking spot, and I am not even talking about one in the city!), and no setting up of bulletin boards!


The village where I live rents garden patches as well. They are located next to the outskirts of the forest and the Frog Pond, and André and his wife have been leasing one of them for 5 years now. They grow a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers, but point out that they mostly like to come out here to take a break from the daily grind, and that after the hard gardening work, they are looking forward to the BBQ - be it with family and friends or just on their own. They have installed some solar panels for light generation and even a bathroom stall.



This way of living - even though you are not allowed to actually live here - makes me think of the Amish people we've come to know last fall in the Pennsylvania / Ohio region. Self-supporting folks doing without or with very little technology - at least as soon as the car is parked ;-)