The first allotment association was founded 150 years ago in Leipzig. It marked the beginning of a success story that has endured to this day.

Nowhere has more allotments than Leipzig, which is why the Saxon city is also known as the allotment capital of Germany. Around 100,000 nature-loving gardening enthusiasts belong to over 200 allotment associations. There’s a long-established tradition of gardening in Leipzig – the world’s first allotment association was founded here 150 years ago.

Educational associations for city children

Allotment gardening has its origins in the ideas of Dr Daniel Gottlob Moritz Schreber. The Leipzig-based doctor found that many children in the city were not getting enough fresh air and exercise. “It wasn’t so different back then to how it is today,” says Caterina Hildebrand. Allotment associations were initially set up with the aim of educating young people in urban areas. “Over time these associations developed into the allotments that are familiar to us today – small plots of land with a summerhouse, where ordinary people can grow fruit, vegetables and flowers,” explains the 34-year-old museologist, herself a keen allotment gardener. She continues: “The concept of allotments remains very relevant. More and more young families are taking up allotment gardening.”

It’s cool to be out in the open air

Juliane Knebel and Jan Hoppe, both aged 31, are among this new generation of gardeners. For the past 18 months, they’ve been the proud parents of son Mats and also became holders of an allotment. “I spent practically all of my childhood outside in the garden. Since having our son, we’ve felt it’s really important for him to be out in the open air as much as possible and to learn all about fruit and vegetables,” explains the young mother enthusiastically. “It’s really cool to be outside, in contact with nature and growing fresh, healthy produce,” says the radio presenter, who lives in Leipzig with her family. “We took over our allotment from a lovely old gentleman who had tended and maintained it for 44 years.” The young couple worked hard to renovate and paint the summerhouse. “Our friends stopped making fun of us a long time ago. Now they all love visiting our little Swedish cottage and enjoy the chilled out vibe here,” says Juliane Knebel.

The German Allotment Museum: experiencing history indoors and out

A relaxed atmosphere is also enjoyed by visitors strolling through the beautiful autumnal gardens of the KGV Dr Schreber allotment association complex. The German Allotment Museum was founded here in 1991, on the site of the first allotment association. In the museum – the only one of its kind worldwide – museum director Caterina Hildebrand traces the history of allotment gardening: “The allotment as we know it today has very diverse historical roots. At the beginning of the 19th century, urban allotment gardens were provided for poor people, factory workers and railway workers in response to rapid industrialisation. The first allotment association in Germany was founded in 1864.” The museum’s director continues: “Here, we explain the history of the allotment garden movement, display historic gardening tools and tell anecdotes relating to allotments. A small special exhibition is also staged every year.” The three display gardens in the museum’s outdoor area are a real experience for visitors, especially for groups of children. “The children are allowed to pick fruit and vegetables here, which many of the girls and boys have never done before,” says Caterina Hildebrand. A little further on, visitors can see historic summerhouses that have been lovingly restored down to the last detail. They are proof that true relaxation and a connection to one’s natural surroundings can be achieved even in the smallest space.

www.kleingarten-museum.de