In Southern Germany there is a strong heritage of traditional orchards which weave fruit trees into a diverse meadow habitat. But, for many years they have been falling into disrepair and countless fruits have been left to rot and be wasted. In the heart of what’s known as the Swabian Orchard Paradise (Schwäbisches Streuobstparadies) the town of Mössingen has developed an innovative solution to orchard neglect and it’s a good thing they have, because out of the 40,000 fruit trees in the region, a quarter are owned by the local authority. These orchards are known as known as Allmandteile, after Allmand meaning ‘land of the general public’.
The Mössingen Scattered Fruit project has mapped all the orchard sites at mystueckle.de. Each plot typically has about 5-10 trees which are a mix of apples, pears, plums, cherries and occasionally walnuts. The website allows residents to browse the available sites via the map, and each plot has information about how many trees of each variety are on the land. Residents can then use the site to ‘adopt’ sections for a fee of €10 a year. By taking on the care and maintenance of these important habitats, and following a few simple rules to protect the meadow habitat and keep the trees in good health, the residents can reap the rewards at harvest time.
But it’s not just about individuals getting their own apples. Harvest time and pruning time is a community affair; there’s traditional local music, education on orchard maintenance, and cooperation to clear and remove prunings, working with the municipalities orchard staff. The fruits are are pressed into “Mössingen Juice” which raises funds for local initiatives.
All of this is possible because the local authority recognises the immense value of these historic orchards to culture and wildlife, but also the benefits – for the public and the authority – that come from bringing the community on board to participate in the process of caring for the landscape.