ID: 260

Germany, Berlin 2010
Himmelbeet is an intercultural community garden in the middle of Berlin-Wedding.

Himmelbeet is an urban, intercultural food gardening community in the central Berlin neighbourhood of Wedding that also hosts events, workshops, fundraising events and a café. The community opened the space in 2012 for anyone who would like to feel a little closer to nature in the middle of an urban area of the size of Germany's capital city. Himmelbeet literally translates as 'Heaven bed'. Currently, the community comprises about 300 regular members but for some events up to 1,000 people might show up during the day. Initially, the community was set up for neighbours to use the garden beds and today it continues to lease the beds to them while maintaining other parts of the space for sporadic users, including tourists who might be at the German capital for a few days only. The use of 30 beds is saved as an award for social initiatives and sponsors of the activities of the garden. Gardening methods follow organic principles, and the garden includes a variety of rarer vegetables that are important for the community as they constitute a form of biodiversity that can also blend with Himmelbeet's vision of local culture through the creation of new, original recipes. Aside from the gardening, the community welcomes help with other things such as events of different kinds as well as fundraising. The garden cafe was built by volunteers using pallets and clay. The cafe also runs on a 'low-waste' principle, producing as little garbage as possible which includes buying other foodstuffs in bulk to reduce packaging and a team of volunteers that are in charge of composting leftover food. The community has also created a guidebook for restaurants in the city to learn the art of developing a low-waste policy at their premises. In 2014, a clay oven was built and now on Fridays people can bring dough and other ingredients to bake pizzas. A beehive sits on the roof of the cafe and supplies it with honey. The Himmelbeet crew also reminds us that the bees “support us in gardening” by pollinating the different crops. The Himmelbeet garden accommodates other needs and interests from the community. The space can be used as a venue for events that include birthdays and even weddings, but more generally anyone might visit the garden to spend time and enjoy one of its regular activities; visitors can contribute with a donation, but the community emphasises that everyone is welcome regarding of their financial means. The Himmelbeet crew also works in developing partnerships with other groups and companies, including a local social housing organisation, and offering a range of services such as building school gardens giving workshops about gardening and food. The garden crew also welcomes people coming with different ideas that follow the ethos of the community and offers support to realise those. The community has also helped people in four other areas of Berlin to set up similar gardens, albeit of a smaller size. These groups train at the Himmelbeet for three years before they are ready to initiate tasks in their area. This long period of training is essential to transfer their knowledge to the whole community instead of training only a few individuals. In this way, new garden communities avoid the sort of logistical problems that, for example, might come up when key participants move out of the neighbourhood. The Himmelbeet has also become an educational venue for those do not have access to more formal education and also as a place to host the implementation of alternative educational methods and aware-raising communication. Himmelbeet represents an opportunity to create a local network to push for issues that matter locally but that are linked to global issues, with a strong emphasis on environment and climate change education. Himmelbeet is a community inspired to discuss the social and ecological challenges of our time and offers an approach to “stay away from populism politics”. The community works on the idea of social transformation within the city and is opposed to any form of discrimination, emphasising diversity to strengthen the relationship amongst neighbours. Along these lines, the Himmelbeet works with asylum seekers, In 2015, the community supporting refugees to start a food garden in one of the schools in the area where they were allocated initially. The community also works with homeless people in different ways, for example by offering the space for theatre events that are led by them. One more way to bring inclusiveness into the activities the community does is by hosting an open-air cinema where documentaries are screened. People with different backgrounds who may or may not speak German come to the Himmelbeat to play instruments and cook food; “the language they speak is not that important” says Meryem Korum from the Participatory Horticulture team, “at the end of the day, these activities allow them to communicate in different ways and become part of one community”. The Himmelbeet is suffering the effects of the ongoing pressure that exist in many cities around the world to use public land. Rising prices and the opportunity to reclaim spaces for new buildings and businesses has meant that the Himmelbeat might have to relocate in the next few years. The Himmelbeat team considers that the city council does not fully understand as of yet the positive implications, both environmental and social, of such a community existing at the heart of Berlin, an argument that would make the community more likely to be able to continue using the land. For this reason, the Himmelbeet has partnered with the University of Stuttgart to study the social and environmental benefits of urban garden communities such as theirs so that they can make a stronger case to the public authorities to use the urban space. This study could help other garden communities from around the world set up similar gardens in their area in the coming years. We also offer a range of services for groups and companies. We build (school) gardens, give workshops about gardening and food, and can use the garden as party location with catering from our café. If you are interested in this, please talk to one of our workers or send an email to

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