Eden is the shortened name of what was originally the “Vegetarische Obstbau-Kolonie Eden“, a vegetarian community near Oranienburg, Germany, concentrating on the cultivation of fruit trees. It is often seen as the archetypal german land community of the early 20th century, and is one of the most documented. An Eden co-operative still exists today, having gone through many changes.
On the 28th of May 1893, 18 members of the Lebensreform movement met in the vegetarian restaurant, “Ceres”, in Berlin to found the “Vegetarische Obstbau-Kolonie Eden e.G.m.b.H., (co-operative with limited responsibility). The name Eden was consciously chosen as harking back to the biblical Garden of Eden, and to emphasise their aim of having a natural life on communal land away from the city.
At first the community had 37 hectares of land that had previously been sheep pasture. The community was made up of small leaseholdings of 2,800 sq. metres each. In this first phase 80 gardens were created and the first fruit trees and soft fruit bushes were planted. In 1894 the community had 94 members working on 22 small leaseholdings. Originally, only vegetarians could lease these smallholdings and every smallholding was independent. In 1895 they set up their own “Oranienburg Building and Credit Society” which was able to fund the construction of 90 family houses by 1914. Alongside the houses, other outbuildings and workshops were set up. The paths remained unpaved in order to keep a natural “settlement” character. The plots of land were enclosed with hedges, both to ensue the privacy of the members and to guard against soil erosion and extreme variations in temperature. By 1898, the yeilds from the gardens were high enough to warrant the production of juices, jams, preserves and fruit puree´s. In the same year a vegetarian guest house was set up, which lead to an increase in visitors, and the community became more and more well known. The settlement entered the 20th century with 15,000 fruit trees, 50,000 soft fruit bushes, 3,000 hazel nut bushes, 200,000 strawberry plants and 20, 000 rhubarb plants.
After 1901, for financial reasons, non-vegetarians could take on leases and the name was changed to “Gemeinnützige Obstbausiedlung“, but meat production remained forbidden within the community. In 1903, the juice and jam production was taken over by the co-operative. In the following years, Eden achieved wide success in the production and marketing of “Reform” vegetarian foodstuffs, including the first completely vegetarian margarine, the “Eden Reformbutter”. In 1910, a local branch of the “völkisch” Deutsche Verein Freiland was started at Eden.  From this date, Eden can be seen as one of the growing number of völkische settlements. From 1916 onwards, a prerequisite for becoming a settler at Eden was a german völkisch orientation, and to have this the new members had to be aryans.
Silvio Gesell at Eden:
Between 1911 and 1916, the economist and social reformer, Silvio Gesell, was a member of the co-operative and lived at Eden. He returned in 1927 and lived there until his death in 1930.
The twenties and thirties:
By 1923, membership had reached 450 members. It had gradually taken on more of the “völkisch” character which was widespread in Germany at that time. In 1925, a youth hostel was built, and in 1929 a kindergarten.
In 1932, the 8th International Vegetarian Congress took place at Eden, and Eden’s idea of a healthy and socially motivated life in small communities received wide recognition.
In 1933 it was integrated into the Nazi system. 
Similarly, after the WW2, the Eden co-operative was integrated into the planned economy of the German Democratic Republic. The fruit product factory together with some of the houses and land were nationalised under the GDR state socialist regime.
“Auf der suche nach Eden“, Astrid Segert and Irene Zierke, Waxmann Verlag, Münster 2001.
Various Eden Publications.
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