Last Wednesday, the Greenbuzz community gathered at MOOS Space for an exciting 6th edition of our #FeedinBerlin series! A big thank you to Jakob and the folks at MOOS for hosting us last minute (see our IG for more details on that)… the power and beauty of being part of socially and ecologically-minded networks. <3
What is a local food economy and why is it important?
The event kicked off with some exchanges on “how you would describe your local food economy” and “the benefits of building a local food economy” – two intro questions to get us all a little more comfortable and settle us into the conversation. Things like “resilience,” “education” and “community” were shared as benefits, and as far as what a local food economy is, we presented this graphic as a guide to visualizing it:
But as it turns out – this graphic is missing a very important element: processors! As we learned from one of our panelis, Jonna from Korn Labor, processing is an essential part of building a local food economy, and one that is sorely lacking in the Berlin/Brandenburg region – listen to Jonna speak more about that here. A point from the audience also highlighted the need to include the sourcing and production of beverages in a food economy, and how some 60% of food calories tend to come from the things we drink.
The Importance of Curiosity?
The evening’s conversation was framed around the ideas brought up in Food in my Kiez (a Berlin-focused narrated podcast exploring how to build more ecologically resilient and socially sustainable food systems) which begins by exploring the power of curiosity in building… well… almost anything!
When it comes to food systems/a local food economy, it was argued that being curious allows us to start seeing the threads that can lead us to more sustainable solutions. Asking questions, hearing stories and getting comfortable with the complexity of reimagining our food systems is the first step in finding what drives you to actually start building a local food economy and contributing to it in the long-run.
How and what we eat – i.e. challenging the status quo
At the event, we discussed a graphic from Oxfam and Grow International’s Behind the Brand campaign which visualizes how the food system is monopolized by 10 major multinational companies. This graphic (see below) is already ten plus years old, and the situation has in many ways only gotten worse.
In case you didn’t know, four large companies – EDEKA, REWE, Aldi and the Schwarz Group (including Lidl) – share over 85% of the food retail market in Germany. This profit-driven food system model has resulted in food and agriculture becoming the second largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions. These largely in transparent food value chains begin with large-scale land-use changes that convert natural grasslands and forests to monoculture farms and pastures for animal industrial agriculture, while producing food that is largely void of essential nutrients and which is wasted in excessive amounts as well.
What we need instead is Food Sovereignty, a term coined in 1996 by La Via Campesina, a global movement of farmers, to describe their vision of a better food future. La Via Campesina defines food sovereignty as “the right of Peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. (definition copied from We Seed Change).
One of the biggest benefits of building a local food economy is the ways in which it can help achieve a bit more sovereignty amongst communities through our engagement with food. Thankfully, there are some initiatives in Berlin working to demystify the food chain and bring more sovereignty, and understanding, into how and what we eat. These include local independent food markets, like Feuerbohne Bioladen in Neukölln, whom we collected donations for at the event – check out their GoFundMe and please share and support if you can!!
Other initiatives that are helping to bring power back to the people in Berlin’s food system are the folks involved with the Robinhood, a food cooperate fighting capitalism with multiple locations in Berlin; SuperCoop food cooperative in Wedding; Dr. Pogo vegan food store in Neukölln; Original Unverpackt where one can buy bulk and package free food and home goods; and Marktschwaermer, an online platform for direct from farm purchases, to name just a few.
Ways to reconnect to our food – and its source!
To inspire people in thinking more deeply about their food choices, reconnecting to food as nature is critical. And luckily, Berlin’s local food economy is quite strong in this area. There are community gardens everywhere, which are a great way to reconnect to food in a city. Ones like Allmende Garten at Tempelhof are particularly powerful because they are in a heavily populated public space, meaning many people from different walks of life come in contact with the space on a daily basis.
But beyond gardens, there are also political food collectives like Torhaus Kochkollektiv who you can join for their monthly Kufa (check their IG for details), and Feld Food Forest who is doing a soil testing event soon and building an actual food forest on Tempelhofer Feld in the near future!
There are also a bunch of food educators like Edible Alchemy, Avant Garden Life, Benoo and Restlos Glücklich who do super valuable work in helping people regain their plant and food preparation knowledge. Another initiative, who submitted a quickpitch for the event, is FoodJustice, an educational project dealing with the worldwide nutrition transition, sustainable diets and Planetary Health. They aim to raise awareness for the advantages a planetary healthy diet brings for human health, climate, biodiversity and soils.
And then there’s companies like Roots Radical, transforming our food waste into new, delicious products and lunches at their new canteen, or Sirplus, who is bringing imperfect and excess food back into the circulation by offering it for sale in thier online shop. Directly working with 700 producers and wholesalers, we are able to save valuable food that is perfectly edible but can’t be sold for all sorts of reasons. Their goal is to make the topic of food waste mainstream and encourage our society, politics and business to rethink. Together with our customers and partners, we make an important contribution to sustainable consumption and climate protection!
Each of these groups are contributing to a network of people thinking differently about food, which slowly builds what is needed to transform our food systems.
Agriculture for People and Planet
Reconnecting to our food will, in many cases, lead us to be more interested in where exactly that food is coming from, and begin to recognize that truly good food comes from healthy soil, cultivated by farmers practicing agroecological methods. The dominant paradigm tells us that we need industrial agriculture to feed the world, but in reality, we need more people and different methods – and much less food waste – to sustain us. And it’s possible in Berlin, too. A recent study found that if one draws a radius of just under 100 kilometers around Berlin, this area would be enough to supply the capital plus the surrounding region with food.
To achieve something like that, we need to support our land stewards – the farmers who are caring for the land and growing food to feed us everyday. There are a handful of such farmers in Brandenburg, but we lose around 1000 small farms a year to agricultural investors who convert those small farms to large industrial monocultures. That is why it is imperative that we support small farmers through things like a SoLaWi, short for Solidarische Landwirtschaft, or community supported agriculture.
If you’re interested to know a bit more about how these work and one of the drop-of points n Berlin, a new short film by the folks at FoodShift 2030 is available. Speisegut is the only SoLaWi that I know of with a farm within Berlin’s borders, and PlantAge is one in Frankfurt Oder whose IG is full of educational material. Then there is my favorite farm, Wilmarsgarten – a magical place inspired by some incredible people with strong visions. They are not a SoLaWi but they do bring their produce to the city most weeks on Thursdays. And one of the newest farm initiatives on the scene, Aloti Farm, a bio, BIPoC and queer led permaculture farm in Brandenburg, has started with the goal to provide marginalized communities in Berlin and Brandenburg with healthy vegetables and to create a safer space for the BIPoC community to connect with the land. Aloti is currently facing eviction from the land they tend to, so get in touch if you have the resources to support them in continuing their important work!
At the start of the event, Jonna also mentioned a few initiatives supporting better logistics for local food production in the region. These include Lerchenbergmühle, FINC Foundation and their grains subscription; Hof Basta and their CSA grains subscription; plus Food Together, which is not strictly local/regional, but a platform for direct sales from farm to consumer, with a focus on sustainability and transparency.
Some other associations and companies who are helping us think differently about food and farming, demonstrating the value of connecting the city with agriculture, are Die Gemeinschaft, who is connecting restaurant staff with their producers; Kantine Zukunft, who is helping Berlin canteens support more local, organic agriculture; HeyTupu, one of the newest controlled agriculture companies on the scene, focused on producing gourmet mushrooms in the city; and The Global Bean Project, and EU- and global network for promoting the cultivation of legumes in the gardens and their use in the kitchen. Then there are the folks reimaging agriculture like the guys at Tiny Farms, or those supporting stronger processing (Korn Labor) and logistics (Plattform2020).
Each of these initiatives are part of building a local food economy in regard to how we grow food and get it to retailers and consumers in Berlin.
Diversity & Inclusion in the Food System
Prioritizing agriculture for people and planet brings many benefits, but in the current system, it also often means higher prices at the markets. Accessibility and justice in the food system are critical to building a local food economy that is equitable. We have a long way to go to achieve this, but there are surely people to point to in this space, such as the folks at Berlin’s Food Policy Council and the Alle an einen Tisch project. Berlin also has a Food Strategy that seeks to provide “good food for all” with part of the initiative being the establishment of Lebensmittelpunkte – a network of places where neighbors can distribute healthy, regional and rescued food together, cook and eat together – or anything else they desire!
There are also folks working to shift the narrative around what “local food” means in a multicultural city like Berlin. A recent docuseries called Papaya & Pommes addresses this by comparing the Co2 emissions of Berlin’s go-to snack, currywurst and pommes with dishes of diaspora cuisines represented in the city – turns out the non-local dishes are often more sustainable in this context. And then there’s annual events like Karneval der Kulturen which highlights the various food cultures that Berlin is home to, but which are often not included in visions of “future” or “local” food.
And finally, there was a point raised during the event that not everyone cares about food the way many of us do, and that we shouldn’t expect them to. This is a very important aspect to consider when we seek to expand our initiatives and include more people – and in how we think about organizing ourselves and demanding things beyond what we want to see in regard to building local food economies.
Connections & Collaborations
And finally, other collaborative efforts happening in Berlin that I think are important to highlight include community spaces and food hubs like Baumhaus Wedding; cultural associations like Tlayolan Berlin who bring folks together to celebrate Mexican cuisine and who are cultivating their own Milpa at their new location; circular initiatives like Dycle who are turning waste into nutritious compost for local gardens; and digitization initiatives like Choco who I featured on an earlier slide and who are helping retailers streamline their orders all in one place to ultimately better understand and strengthen logistical flows.
But beyond inspiring individual action through the building of communities that value good food and the support of farmers in the local region and globally, especially those that are committed to ecological farming practices, we also need to get political. Building a local food economy requires a many coordinated efforts, rooted in strong communities who are are able to discuss, debate and formulate clear demands.
Some groups I know of working to strengthen farmer networks and address the land governance issues being faced by farmers in Berlin//Brandenburg include Das Ackersyndikat, a decentralized solidarity network of self-organized farms which work to ensure that agricultural land always belongs to the people who cultivate and use it in an ecologically responsible manner; Netzwerk Flachsicherung, an alliance of initiatives that works to secure areas in Germany for more ecological, regional and rural management.
Agrar Bundis, who organises and educates around agricultural policies in the region; Hands on the the Land, whose aim is to raise awareness on the use and governance of land, water and other natural resources and its effects on the realisation of the right to food and food sovereignty; and of course, Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft e.V. or Abl,who are a network committed to preserving rural agriculture and organizing around specific farmer-led demands.
And because food justice does not exist in a silo, I believe some very important connections and collaborations also ned to extend outside of our food-focused bubbles. To build collective power and pressure – and also to engage with folks who may not focus on food but who share similar social justice values – we need to connect across movements. Two initiatives I see closely tied to the fight for food justice in Berlin are The Basic Income Initiative in reagrd to access and the Initiative Deutsche Wohnen & Co enteignen in regard to the right to basic needs.
What other initiatives do you know of that are contributing to a local food economy and/or strengthening the social fabric for other social justice issues in Berlin? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to share any other thoughts and ideas there too!
BIG shout out and thank you to Nadav for providing delicious hummus and veggies to sustain everyone during the event, and to Carla from MOOS for helping with drinks. It was a lovely evening and we look forward to future additions and events with you all in the future!
As always – if you have event ideas, especially those you would want to co-develop with us, we are happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions. We are also currently welcoming new team members! So, if these types of events seem like something you’d want to contribute to, please get in touch, too! <3
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