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More Space for the First Organic Coffee Roaster in Hessen: A Community in Kehna, Germany Makes an Impact Locally - and Beyond

Foto: Charlotte Fischer

The coffee roasting company started by a social therapy community in Kehna is a real success story. With the support of the Software AG Foundation, the coffee roaster was able to move to larger premises. This increases the economic basis of the company and promotes a workplace model that promotes cooperative partnerships with people with disabilities.  

In social-therapeutic work with people with disabilities, a paradigm change has taken place in recent years. Integration into society and partnership as equals are central goals today. In the community in Kehna, these values play an important role. In the small town near Marburg, people with disabilities live and work together with employees of the community, and several workshops offer meaningful employment opportunities. "We want to give people with disabilities the opportunity to create meaningful and largely independent lives for themselves," said Michael Gehrke, one of the founders. "The community in Kehna is working intensively and successfully to make sure that the disabled residents are a part of the whole village and its community." 

In 1993, the organisation "Hofgemeinschaft für heilende Arbeit e.V." purchased three estates in the then steadily-shrinking town of just 50 inhabitants. Two of the properties had already been lovingly restored years ago and provided space not only for residents to live, but also for several workshops. Today, there are a total of 54 workplaces in Kehna as well as 8 other positions in the area, for example in a nearby youth camp, a tool shop, and an organic farm in the area. "Developing local relationships and maintaining strong contacts with other initiatives are important to us," explained co-founder Gabriele Scholtes. "This is reflected in the high number of integrated employment opportunities available with employers in the area." 

In communal life as well as in different employment opportunities, the community emphasizes participation and taking responsibility. In this way they attempt to match the individual capacities of each person. "A respectful and cooperative approach is a fundamental theme of our community," said Eva Schäfer, who directs the coffee roasting company together with Andreas Tünnemann. They understand the concept of "soul care," which is well established in anthroposophical therapeutic care, as primarily being a form of dialogical relationship formation: "This creates an environment that provides space for psychological and social needs, but also the spiritual needs, of individuals." 

With the support of Software AG Foundation, the third estate, the Oarmshof, was rebuilt and expanded between 2011 and 2014. It houses, among other things, a special workshop of the community: the coffee roaster. The coffee roaster was opened in 2000 as the first social-therapeutic institution of its kind in Germany. It has been a great success, not least thanks to a competent roasting team that produces a coffee that many customers, once they have tried it, are willing to keep coming back for. The expansion of the coffee roaster will create 14 new jobs and create the needed space to increase production to meet the growing demand for organic coffee.  A welcoming shop with bistro tables invites customers to try the coffee and get to know the coffee specialties on offer. The estate also offers three additional apartments for assisted living. 

"What impressed us was not only the successful development of the community itself, but also the positive effects that it has had on the social life of the town," said Klaus Plischke, the project manager at the Software AG Foundation. "Village life has become more colorful and diverse; and the workshops of the community, together with the coffee roaster and the little bistro, have brought more life into the village's living and working culture. The coffee roaster has now become so popular, even beyond the village, that an expansion of the Oarmshof estate was only logical." 

The expansion of the coffee roaster strengthens the economic basis of the community and thus also strengthens the social impulses that emanate from it, even beyond the region. Meanwhile, founder Michael Gehrke has established an entire network with other coffee roasters and is in direct contact with organic coffee producing initiatives worldwide. This direct exchange makes it possible to obtain coffee of an especially high quality directly from growers and to pay them fair prices for their high quality products.