Home Food & Drink Visiting Local Farms: Getting to the Root of the Culture

Visiting Local Farms: Getting to the Root of the Culture

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The common destinations when traveling through Europe usually consist of the big cities- London, Paris, Madrid, etc. But what happens outside of the city walls can actually give you a much closer look of the real backbone of the cultures.

And what could be more basic than food? Because of my thesis topic, I’ve had the chance to visit some of the farms surrounding Hamburg- essentially the roots from which the local, traditional foods has grown.

Harvesting celery root at the Kattendorfer Hof.
Harvesting celery root at the Kattendorfer Hof.

What’s the best part?

You don’t have to be a local to visit some of these farms. Especially one, the Kattendorfer Hof in Kattendorf (just 40 or so kilometers north of the Hamburg city center), lets you visit for the day, work on the farm and even spend the night if you wish.

At this farm, they work with the Demeter certification, which is essentially a more ambitious production technique than organic, known as biodynamic agriculture. Essentially, the Demeter certification requires that the biodiversity and ecosystem preservation is a focus, soil husbandry, livestock integration, prohibition of genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) and viewing the farm as a living “holistic organism” with a closed circle approach.

Along with the physical techniques of farm production, Demeter also works with a philosophical holistic approach– to recognize, restore and support natural cycles and interrelationships.

So what is interesting for a visitor or traveler on a farm?

Most interesting for me, especially as someone who lives in a city, is the potential to get your hands dirty and some fresh air. I had the chance to help harvest some celery root, but also to meet with some of the locals and gain a deeper insight into what foods are local and fresh here in northern Germany.

Cabbage.
Cabbage.
Brussels sprouts.
Brussels sprouts.
Rhubarb plants.
Rhubarb plants.
Harvesting celery root!
Harvesting celery root!
Fields at the Kattendorfer Hof.
Fields at the Kattendorfer Hof.

Plus, I got to meet some pretty friendly farm animals too!

Mother cow with a 1 day old calf!
Mother cow with a 1 day old calf!
The HUGE bull.
The HUGE bull.
Friendly cows!
Friendly cows!
An overly friendly pig...
An overly friendly pig…

This can also be helpful for your eating experience when you trek back inside the city walls. You can learn how the restaurants use the local, seasonal ingredients and get a taste (no pun intended) of what the traditional roots of the culture are.

Looking to save some money? Find ingredients using the local ingredients and make dinner yourself at your hostel, Airbnb or hotel. One of my favorites using the seasonal pumpkin or squash found in Germany in the fall is a curried butternut squash soup.

How else do farms connect with traveling Europe?

Have you ever heard of WWOOFING? This is an international organization that connects hosts to volunteers. In exchange for your work, you can get food, accommodation and even gain valuable skills in the organic farming sector. This is a great idea for young people or people traveling on a budget! I haven’t yet tried WOOFING, but definitely will in the future, so stay tuned for more information…

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