Submitted by Kelly Young
Our final day in Berlin began with several meetings in the offices in the DBV (German Farmer's Association). We talked about how the the DBV is organized, and much like the Farm Bureau system, it has county, state and national levels.
We also discussed the challenges facing agriculture--many of which mirror the U.S. agriculture industry. Roger Fechler, our host during our time in Berlin, discussed economic and public perception problems the livestock industry is facing, especially regarding pork production. The public relations team introduced us to the consumer relations plan they have been working on since 2010 to help the public better understand modern farming. One initiative was the President of the DBV placing a 24-hour webcam in his hog barn to allow the public an inside look. This generated 1,000 comments on the site in the first day. They were very critical of his farming practices until other farmers joined the conversation to help explain how well the pigs were cared for and why modern farmers do certain practices. It redirects an educational conversation.
Later we enjoyed lunch with DBV staff and the Secretary General, Mr. Bernhard Kr'u'sken. We talked about everything from taxes to fertilizer, but mostly about how similar the challenges really are for farmers in both countries.
We had the afternoon to explore the city on our own and we went back to sights we had briefly seen during our tour on Sunday. The ladies returned to tour the Schloss Charlottenburg palace and gardens, the getaway for Prussian princess Sophie Charlotte before her untimely death just months after becoming queen.
Brandenburg Gate during Festival of Lights.
The gentlemen walked all the way to Checkpoint Charlie and visited the museum there that showed how residents of former East Germany escaped with the help of brave West Berliners and false bottom cars or other ingenious methods.
As this was the end of our time in the German capital, here are the favorite memories of each fellow:
Trudy: Berliners and all East Germans we met demonstrated tremendous resilience in their towns and farms...regardless of war damages or political conflicts, they have always rebuilt their towns or reconfigured their farm. From cooperative farms-turned-privately owned farms with modern bio-gas systems using custom hired labor to express streets in Berlin built by Nazi troops to prestigious Cathedrals preserved with their World War II bomb shelling damages to teach Salvation. Germans have retooled their cities and tried new things.
Kelly: I enjoyed learning about how former East German cooperatives re-formed to private businesses following the reunification after the Berlin Wall fell and also visiting the farm in Nauen with an array of renewable energy generation businesses. We saw a lot of historical places and I really respect how Berliners value all of their history, giving even the darker moments a place to be memorialized, perhaps to prevent repeating them. But most of all I enjoyed the friendliness of the people we met, how willing they were to answer my million questions about the German language and culture, and share what they know. I won't forget laughing endlessly over currywurst, d'o'ner kebab, and schnitzel. Auf wiedersehen, Berlin! Vielen dank, Roger!
Steve: It was interesting to speak with the German Farmer's Association and Lobbyists, learning that they have many of the same issues and concerns that we have. We had a great time walking through the city and learning more on the history of Berlin. It is fascinating how much construction has occurred since the reunification and as we now know, everything remaining is "under construction." Thank you very much to the DBV and Roger for being such gracious hosts.
Brandon: One of the more impressive sites that Steve and I visited was Checkpoint Charlie. The museum on site told of the horrible conditions and constant fear the people of East Germany lived in. The ingenuity and drive of the people to escape led to some very daring attempts to be free. Hiding in automobile gas tanks, tunneling, and even air ballooning were just some of the many methods used to escape. Some were successful, some were not. Freedom is something I have enjoyed my entire life and cannot imagine otherwise. Our guides and new friends experienced life in East Berlin when the wall was still in place and told of their experiences. The Unification brought many families back together has created a new vibrant wonderful city. Thank you to our hosts and guides and especially Roger for the great times and memories we all had in Berlin. I look forward to our next stop in Hanover.