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Introducing our growers: Domäne Dahlem

Aerial view of the Domäne Dahlem. Photo: D. Laubner

The “Domäne Dahlem” is an open-air museum for agricultural and food culture with an ecological focus. Its legal form is a state-recognised non-profit foundation under civil law. On the former Mark Brandenburg manor, whose historic land has been used for agriculture for more than 800 years, the estate, museum, farm shop, country inn and old crafts complement each other with exhibitions, guided tours and workshops to create the only organic farm in Germany with its own underground railway connection. In the foundation's two museum buildings, the cultural history of food production and nutrition is collected, researched and communicated.

Domäne Dahlem's manor. Photo: K. Wendtland

Under the guiding principle "From the field to the plate", the foundation's programmes and activities focus on the processes of food production, processing and marketing through to consumption – from the past to the present and into the future.

With a broad programme of exhibitions, educational programmes and events, the foundation facilitates a broad social discourse and cross-generational education in the spirit of the United Nations. An average of 1000 guided tours take place on the site each year, especially for day-care centres and school classes. In addition, around 300,000 people visit the grounds of Domäne Dahlem every year, a large proportion of them as part of the market festivals such as the harvest festival, the potato festival or the Advent markets.

Market festival on the estate. Photo: K. Börner

The Domäne Dahlem organic farm and Ark Farm (“Arche-Hof” in German) also operates within this framework. On 10 hectares of agricultural land, various crops are grown and harvested, from herbs and flowers to vegetables, soft fruit and potatoes, and marketed through the farm shop and the farm's own restaurant. A large part of the 6-year crop rotation are clover-alfalfa-grass mixtures, on the one hand as pasture for our sheep, goats, cows, horses and chickens, on the other hand to maintain and improve soil health, for humus formation and CO2 storage. Many of the crop varieties we grow are on the Red List of endangered native crops.

Farm shop. Photo: Domäne Dahlem

Seven livestock species are kept in around 10 different endangered breeds, most of which are bred in herd books, such as Red Mountain cattle or German "Sattelschwein" pigs. Pedigree poultry is also bred in 2 breeds. There is no direct historical time frame. Instead, an attempt is made to utilise the best methods and tools from the past and present, and at best to develop them further. Not only to show them, but also to preserve them for the future. This is especially true for agricultural techniques. To this end, we work with both modern and older tractors, and sometimes also with draught cattle.

Educational work with German "Sattelschwein" pig. Photo: K. Börner

This gives some trainees or helpers the opportunity to learn how to mow with a scythe, drive a tractor or drive a draught cattle. The farm is always open during the day so that visitors can observe all of this. The farm is run in such a way that as many of the work areas as possible – if they were larger – could also function economically. This is the only way to create an authentic picture for a museum.

Working with draught cattle depends heavily on the staffing situation. In some years, the entire 1.5 hectares of potatoes were hoed and harrowed with draught cattle, while in other years, the draught cattle were only used for shows, fairs and workshops. Every now and then a trained ox is sold.


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