Meet Claire and Leòn from Germany

“Claire(23) just finished her bachelor’s degree in sustainable agribusiness /Business administration in Amsterdam and moved back to her hometown to live with her new partner Leon(26), who is finishing his thesis in Environmental Sciences. We are happily in love – both dreamers, activists and idealists. We connected with our passion for food, our dreams about the future for society and our sense for Gandhi’s words: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. That is why we garden, because we believe that food production holds the key to bringing change. Gardening became more than producing food, it is a contribution to a world we want to life in.

Leon started gardening after Highschool to gain independence and sovereignty. As sustainability was key, he quickly came across permaculture, seed saving, biointensive gardening, community living, all united in an apprenticeship at the Koanga Institute (NZ). Claire’s study focused on artisanal food production and social entrepreneurship. She left her position as CEO in her Start-Up in the production of raw fermented vegetables asking herself “How am I supposed to have an impact in the food system when I barely know how to grow a carrot?”

Our 400 m2 garden is located in a 1000-year-old, still practicing monastery in Trier, Germany. Three years ago, Leon gained the trust of the monks to revive their abandoned gardens. Besides the beds for vegetables, there is 90 years old stone fruit orchard, nut trees, a medicinal herb bed, an independent water source on the property, 14 beehives and an amazing green house.

As the gardens are facing full sun, we had serious trouble the past years with drought, water management and a resulting loss of produce. In order to be more resilient against the increasingly striking heat caused by climate change, we decided to change the planting concept of biointensive food production into the more extensive, subtropical three sisters’ permaculture concept. We modified it with biointensive elements, quickly growing groundcover, dividing the beds into different stories, all connected to benefit each other. Aiming for carbon sequestration while balancing water and sun needs as well as producing veggies. In addition, we heavily mulched the bare soil, added organic horse manure and compost humus. We support our soil life and microbes by feeding them with molasses. We use Claire´s kombucha or whey from our organic feta making as spray folia. We don’t deep till, only aerate the soil, nor do we use any synthetic chemicals. We believe by taking good care of the soil health we take care of the plant health which ultimately is taking care of our own health.

In the Sister´s we planted corn and sunflowers as carbon crops; peas, broad, bush and climbing beans as legumes; tomatoes, brassicas, basil and loads of cucurbits as heavy feeders. In the biointensive bed we planted garlic, onions, chards, kale, leeks, carrots, beets, climbing beans, lettuce and greens. But the real heart and pride of the garden were the 300 tomato plants, from 40 different heirloom varieties, Claire raised in the Greenhous. Combined with bush beans and Indian cress they turned into a tomato jungle producing more than 500kg of delicious tomatoes on only 45 m2. Wow!

We only saved the seeds of our self-pollinating crops, thanks to Leon´s parents, the other seeds are heirloom seeds from our own or regional seed production. Right now, we have started with our winter crop rotation to cover and protect the soil, leaving it healthier as before.

We share the space and the produce with the monks and our closest friends, exchanging knowledge over generations and spending lifetime together while growing food.

For us, gardening is more than just growing tasty food, it is growing life. It’s our contribution giving us the feeling of positive progression, a sense of purpose, allowing us to live our perception of what is real and really matters to us in this world. And that is why we are super thankful to be part of this community, keep up the beautiful work gardeners! Thank you for sharing the spirit and getting your hands dirty.”