Oberfeld Farm in Darmstadt Wins Federal Prize in Organic Agriculture for its Multi-Year Project, Supported by the Software AG Foundation

Prizewinners at ceremony
Photo: E. Müller, demeter

Oberfeld Farm in Darmstadt is one of three of this year's prizewinners in a national competition among organic farms. Among the well-wishers and speakers at the award ceremony, held during International Green Week in Berlin, were Prof. Dr. Jürgen Heß of the faculty for organic agriculture at the University of Kassel Witzenhausen, Heinz Gengenbach of the Landesbetrieb Landwirtschaft Hessen and Sebastian Bauer, project manager at the Software AG Foundation. The foundation is one of the long-term supporters of the farm community and has been an important element in its growth since the beginning.

The jury was impressed not only by the versatility of the farm's operations, which includes crops, vegetables, and livestock, but above all by its innovate business organization: The 120 shareholders in the farm are mostly engaged citizens who are actively committed to supporting organic farming. Since 2006, the Hofgut Oberfeld in the East of Darmstadt has been farming with biodynamic methods. At that point, the farm stood at a turning point – there were only two employees remaining on the tradition-rich farm. “When the Software AG Foundation first spoke to the founding team in 2006, we were very convinced by their approach and their goal to restore the last remaining farm in Darmstadt with intentional diversity and above all with independence,” says project manager Sebastian Bauer. With the support of the Software AG Foundation, the fate of the farmland was once and for all settled, and dedicated individuals came to join the farm – and thus the foundation for future development was established.

When one visits the farm today, one finds it to be a lively location where organic agriculture, recreation, work with persons with disabilities, social therapy, and many other aspects come together. A farm store, cafe, and seasonal garden have become magnets for visitors. In animal welfare, too, the farm belongs at the forefront of developments in organic farming. Mothered calf rearing and poultry farming with mobile stalls as well as organically farmed animals are setting standard in livestock care; recently the farm was awarded a prize for animal welfare in agriculture by the state of Hessen.

“On Hoftgut Oberfeld, one clearly sees that good things come to pass when many people decide together to do something great, something that transcends self-interest and that will benefit everyone,” says Bauer. “That's why we are so pleased to celebrate together with the committed members of the farm and all of the other supporters about this recognition of their work.”

Hofgut Oberfeld
Many people were behind the idea to continue to operate the last working farm in the central city of Darmstadt and to maintain Oberfeld as an open field and a local recreational area as well as to use the farm for organic farming. In the farm's learning center (Lernort Bauernhof), people of all ages have the opportunity to experience agriculture and nature with all of their senses, with both heart and mind. In 2015, over 4,000 participants took advantage of this opportunity.

In addition, the organization Heydenmühlen e.V., also located on the farm, offers living opportunities for people with disabilities, as well as a chance to work on different projects. Many citizens of Darmstadt are shareholders in the Hofgut Oberfeld agricultural joint stock company; many others are members of volunteer organization and donate their time on the farm to assist with construction and to maintain the premises.

The farm is owned by a non-profit foundation, the Stiftung Hofgut Oberfeld, and is therefore protected long-term from speculation. More information is available in German about the Iniviative Domäne Oberfeld, agriculture, and the learning center.

The Software AG Foundation has been supporting Hofgut Oberfeld since its inception and supports countless charitable initiatives that are active there.

Portrait Oberfeld Farm (in German)