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Four days cycling across to places of change

“What surprised me” is written on the poster spread out on the wooden floor of the Agenda21 House in Rottweil, a town in southwest Germany in the state of Baden-Württemberg. More and more comments are added to the poster:

  • That you can be soaked on the inside as well as the outside because it rains all the time and that it doesn’t matter at all if you are out and about with great people and have good conversations.
  • That many great projects start small, with only a few committed people.
  • That harvesting potatoes with a potato harvester is quite strenuous.
  • That I am more optimistic about the future after the past four days.
  • That we as a group have become a kind of small community within four days.

The participants of the “4days4future Tour” (bicycle adventure tour), young people from all over Germany, write down their impressions of the tour on the poster. A kind of silent writing conversation ensues. Four intensive days lie behind us, during which we cycled to various places in the Black Forest to meet actors of change. What future do we want? Where are there places in the world where people already live this kind of future?  These are the guiding questions on our tour.

The first stop is the Sonnenwald community in the Black Forest, idyllically surrounded by the forest, meadows and fields. Since 2019, 60 adults and 14 children have been living and working here, exploring what a new culture of togetherness might look like. They are largely self-sufficient and practise regenerative agriculture on the surrounding fields.

We immerse ourselves in another world and leave behind the hectic pace of our everyday lives that is related to things like university exams, Master’s theses, stress at work, etc. We focus on pausing, slowing down and try to consciously perceive, get to know and experience this new place.

Martin, a Catholic pastoral assistant, former prison chaplain and co-founder of the community welcomes us and gives us a first idea of what the Sonnenwald community is all about: ‘Our intention is to try out and develop a new, life-serving culture in our community, as well as a different kind of appreciative togetherness. We have many fields for experimentation, e.g. solidarity-based financing of our costs without barter logic, decision-making according to the concept of sociocracy and solidarity-based agriculture.’

The next day, we help out on the farm for “regenerative agriculture”. In concrete terms, this means putting on work gloves and going out into the field. We clear the beetroot rows of weeds and thistles and help with the potato harvest. Vegetable gardening provides the community with a variety of different crops all year round. Hardly any oil-operated machinery is used, and the rows of beds are divided by permanent crop strips with perennial vegetable shrubs and bushes as beneficial insect habitats. The wind rustles in the leaves of the young wild fruit bushes and nut trees that line the field in rows. In the background, the cows are mooing in their large pasture. We are working in the beetroot field and because there are many of us, we are making good progress. Working together. Pausing and slowing down. We are right in the middle of it.

In the evening we ask ourselves: How does life in community work? Could I imagine living in a community? What do you do here at weekends? What can I apply to my own life in the city? Where are there places of change in the city?

We get on our bikes to reach our second destination. We cycle along forest paths to Rosenfeld, where the co-founders of the SOLAWI Zollernalb association, Carmen and Frank, are waiting for us in a polytunnel. The association, which was founded four years ago, now has 159 members and is committed to the preservation of smallholder agriculture and food sovereignty. ‘In community-supported agriculture, food is not sold on the market but flows into the consumers’ own economic cycle. Consumers thus help organise and finance agriculture. This allows farmers to operate independently of subsidies and market prices. Food no longer has a price and gets its value back,’ Carmen explains to us. 

We are impressed by the voluntary commitment and dedication of the group. As it starts to drizzle, we get on our bikes to get to our next destination: Klemens Jakob, a farmer in Isingen at the foot of the Swabian Alb. He has built himself an 18-square-metre tiny house from natural materials that is independent of a water network or energy grid. He used tiny house kits to build it so that it can be replicated. ‘In today’s society, people have no connection to the food they eat or the waste they produce,’ says Klemens Jakob. With the construction of the tiny house, he wanted to do something to change this. Not everything worked out right away. He learned a lot only after he had already started to build the house. But today he is very happy that he has managed to live largely self-sufficiently.

We continue our route on the bike. In the meantime, it has started to rain. While cycling over muddy unpaved roads, we review the encounters, conversations, experiences and impressions of the last few days. So much input and inspiration! Some things may have challenged, irritated and perhaps unsettled us in recent days. Then we remind ourselves that our tour is all about perception and that new and unfamiliar things may first create cognitive dissonance in us. This is exactly the moment when learning and inner change happen! Lost in thought, we keep on cycling through the rain. When there are only 5 km left to Rottweil, the sun suddenly flashes through the clouds and a rainbow appears over the field. We stop to enjoy the view. Then we pedal on to our last destination: a Swabian dinner of “Linsen mit Spätzle” (lentils with Swabian pasta).

THANK YOU to CFTP and the KR Foundation for the support!


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