Economic Solidarity Without Hierarchies
In 1982 a group of 15 left-wing people that dreamed of a different way of life, met for a weekend at the Arpshof. They had a common vision, they called the Hamburg 100 People Project, a place were people would live and do meaningful work in a self-determined, non-hierarchical way. They imagined a piece of land where they could get together to practice social cooperation, solidarity and a joint economy where the collective owned the property and all the facilities and means of production.
Some months later the group had grown to around 40 individuals, and after another 3 months of discussions they wrote a position paper, that forestalled the foundation for the commune as it exists today. The group then went through many challenges, changes, losses and gains of members for another 4 years. Eventually they found the big farm house in Niederkaufungen were they were able to begin the practical implementation of their ideals.
They started out as a group of 20 people and doubled the size over the following two years, which was fortunate because there was an incredible lot of work to be done in the early years.
Today about 60 grown-ups and 20 children/teens live here. Most of the adults work in one of the self-managed work collectives like the seminar center, a building firm, a smithy/metal workshop, a carpentry and joinery, an organic food catering, organic seed production, a farm shop, a kindergarten and a day care center for people with dementia, a team of trainers for Nonviolent Communication and a fruit/orchard collective.
Additional farmland for the certified biological production of vegetables and a farm in a small distance with a EU certified organic dairy and cheese production were added later. You can imagine that the commune is well integrated into the local economy with its products and services.
The facility has a wonderful garden with lots of flowers, shrubs and trees and many nice places to enjoy the outdoor season. The communards also share common rooms like a library, a very nice community hall that also serves as the dining area, a movement hall were Qi Gong and other courses take place, an extra living room were movies can be shown and a nice fire place outside.
Over the last two weeks I have had the opportunity to get an impression of many different tasks, by helping in all kinds of areas: harvesting beets for the chicken, picking apples for storage and juice, protecting young trees with mesh wire, sewing curtains, picking solitary mason bees from their cocoons to keep them safe, clean and cool for next spring, taking care of the garden, clearing out a cow barn, cooking and doing dishes for the group. I thoroughly enjoyed all of those tasks in the context of this great commune.
Tomorrow I am scheduled to assort and pack seeds for the seed collective, and on my last day here this Friday I will support the catering business for an hour and then do some renovation work.
So I’m having a varied and interesting program here, in addition to the many good conversations and interviews. I attended twice a plenum which was really quite captivating for me. Today after dinner we had a very nice chilling get together at the fire site – which might have been the last fire for this year as we had the first frost last night.