The Museumsdorf Volksdorf (Museum-Village Volksdorf) now lies within Germany’s second-largest city, Hamburg, but it was once a village of typical vernacular architecture and the forest occupations that went with the site. The museum is a few minutes on foot from a direct train-line station and provides the look and feel of a country place with its typical Low German house buildings (Fachhallenhaus), extensive grounds and variety of farm animals from chickens and ducks to draft horses and cattle.
It was the venue for the 2020 meeting of the German Cattle Draft Working Group* and demonstrated the town & country link the inhabitants are evidently proud of, since they attended the demonstrations animal draft for transport and logging practice over the weekend of 8-9 February, as well as the through-town parade of all the working teams that aroused not one single horn sounded by car or bus, as drivers waited patiently and the public crowded round, parents often providing human draft for their bike carts, kiddie wagons or strollers.
There was plenty to see and the museum’s volunteers answered over one thousand questions about how the Rhaetian Greys ran the grist mill from the inside or the Reds and Spotted Cattle powered the outdoor mill drive with its underground transmission. The Working Group adjourned to the museum’s ample pasture and woods grounds for the logging session, which gave everyone the opportunity to compare the two main yoking methods used:
the Tillers-style head (or neck) yoke and the three-pad collar developed to its fullest during the 1930s by Heinrich Steinmetz to underwrite production in small farming, especially in the Rheinland. Both systems require considerable breaching to brake vehicles on hilly ground, but there is hardly a slope in sight in Volksdorf, so it was all “pull”.
The museum is well-known for its commitment to helping the public, especially school children, understand the links between stockbreeding and food on the table, and has been an important collaborator for a middle and high-school educational project on sustainable food production that won two major prizes in 2020.
Author: Cozette Griffin-Kremer
Editor’s Note: Article originally published in AIMA Newsletter N°17, reproduced here with permission of the author.