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From Planting to Hilling. Field Report from the "WIR in Lorsch" Project (Lauresham Open-Air Laboratory)

Three years ago, we – the Lauresham Open-Air Laboratory (part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Lorsch Abbey and the State Palaces and Gardens of Hesse) together with the City Council of Lorsch, many Lorsch-based companies like foresters, farmers, retailers and caterers – were able to launch a project through a competition of the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region in southern Germany: "WIR in Lorsch" – in English "We in Lorsch".

W stands for appreciation (in German "Wertschätzung") for the region and their people,

I for innovative land use ("Innovative Landnutzung") and

R for regionality ("Regionalität").

It is based on the observation that in our region, which is highly urbanized and industrialized, many basic connections with regard to food production have literally been lost. Many people no longer know where their food comes from and the majority of the food produced in the small town of Lorsch, which I will talk about in the following, is not consumed there. It is produced for the "global market" and does not find any added value in the community itself. This goes along with the fact that the regional and local infrastructure has gradually collapsed. There is a lack of local processing facilities for food: often products have to be transported many kilometres before they can be processed at all.

Fig. 1 – The logo of the WIR Project, created by the US Silhouette Artist Lauren Muney.

With the "We in Lorsch" project, we wanted to set new impulses and reactivate, strengthen or even create a new regional value chain.  We used the project funds to create a “field for diversity”, on which we produce grain in cooperation with local farmers without the use of pesticides and partly with animal traction. The grain is finally processed into bread and sold in local bakeries. We were making wholemeal flour milled in a regional mill, which in turn is now sold in two local shops. And the response from the local population has been very positive. 

In addition, we created a teaching and experimental field for animal traction, where we want to clarify the relevance of draft animals in the 21st century and also visibly produce food for the people of Lorsch. The field is located on a busy cycle path and is heavily frequented by people on foot or by bicycle. The vegetable crops are cultivated exclusively by hand and with animal traction and are finally sold directly at the field or at the local weekly market in exchange for donations.

This year's potato operation, respectively the process from planting to the first hilling, will – as part of the "A Year On The Field" project – now be explained in more detail:

This year we decided to grow a total of 10 heritage as well as modern varieties, namely Gunda, Charlotte, Siglinde, Adretta, Violetta, Linda, Laura, Agria, King Edward and Blaue Anneliese. King Edward is one of the very old varieties, originates from England and has been cultivated since 1902.

Fig. 2 – Creating the seed furrows for planting the potatoes.

After plowing the field in spring, the seed furrows were created in April with a single-ox using a German “Köckerling” combi implement from the 1950s. Finally, the potatoes were planted by hand. The seed furrows were then closed with a hilling plough.

Fig. 3 – Digging in the potatoes using a single ox and a hilling plow.


In early May the potato rows were weeded for the first time using hand tools.

Fig. 4 – Weeding with hand tools.

On May 13th, the same hilling plough was used for the first hilling pass.

Fig. 5 – First hilling of the potatoes on May 13th 2024.

The potato field after the first hilling.

Text prepared by: Claus Kropp, initiator of the WIR in Lorsch Project and Manager of the Lauresham Open-Air Laboratory.


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