Posted by Annette Jorgensen, OUTSKIRTS OF KOLDING TOWN, DENMARK -- In Denmark, allotments ('kolonihaver') are much more than places to grow a few vegetables. Originally set up by philanthropists as spaces where the urban poor could go to produce some of their own food, the kolonihaver became popular during the previous century’s early decades. The kolonihaver initiative began as part of a wider movement to improve the quality of life of lower wage inner city residents. While similar movements occurred to some degree in other European countries, in Denmark, allotments have developed into spaces for all kinds of social life. For example, these are places where you bring Granny for coffee and cake on a Sunday afternoon, or your friends for a few beers on Wednesday evenings during the summer months. They are hybrid spaces that can serve a number of functions besides putting a garden salad on the table.
Kolonihaver are also spaces where you can express your creativity and let your imagination run free. Most kolonihaver have a tool shed that doubles as a home away from home, with furniture, patios, bicycles, crokery, and cutlery. Sometimes they even have favorite pieces of art and crafts. But what I really love about them is that they are all so different. Some of these ‘houses’ are bought ready made, while others are created from salvaged scrap. Some gardens seem to have a purely instrumental function, serving as a place to produce one's own food. Most have an abundance of flowers. But others have nothing but grass and children's toys. In recent decades, some gentrification of allotment spaces has taken place: producing your own vegetables has become trendy amongst younger, middle class couples. However, this process has not deterred the original allotment gardeners, and, in fact, all sorts of people seem to be represented here, across class, age group and ethnic origin. Immigrants tend to quickly embrace this particular Danish tradition, bringing with them new plant varieties and ways of growing. And although winter is particularly harsh in Denmark, because of their multiple uses, allotments are still lively places during these cold and snowy months.
Annette Jorgensen is a Sociologist based in Dublin, Ireland. She is a lecturer in social science at Dublin Business School. She completed her doctoral degree in sociology at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, in 2010. She is author of the blog, Invisible Pictures, where you can view more of her work, which includes an ongoing comparative study of allotments in Denmark and Ireland. You can contact Annette at email@example.com.