Monday, 30 December 2013


Last week on the radio I listened to a report that was really more of a sad fable, entitled “The Last Cow” about a village in the Swabian region and the decision of the last rancher there to ironically buy the farm and retire with no heirs to take over the family business, purportedly run since Roman times. The German title for the report (Der Letztes Küh) sounded like “the last coup” but the German word for coup d'etat or blow is the funner word Putsch.

It was a tragic narrative, since such a choice looks like it cannot be undone and abandoning agriculture is not something that one can recapture later on, and recounting personal memories of the slow disassembly and compartmentalisation of the community over the lifetimes of the people being interviewed. Though the end result is obvious—houses becoming things unto themselves and independent of any neighbourly infrastructure or else given up for convenience and opportunity, it is unclear what the anchorage is for these small villages. Beyond one farmer's nostalgia, which nonetheless establishes very true facts about the condition of such withering communities, there was formerly a brewery that incentivized young people to remain as well as all the supporting infrastructure, schools and churches. While it is a patent fact for the moment that Germany's agricultural bounty can still provide a lot—weekly markets and even supermarkets able to satisfy most needs produced locally, and a surplus, Bavaria, for instance, has still seen its agricultural experts halved within the past decade. It's hard to say what lesson that this sort of fable, repeated too often, is giving.