Svanholm – the biggest intentional community in Denmark

On Saturday I had a chance encounter with some members of Svanholm intentional community at the small farmers market in Østerbro. They were displaying an array of ‘ugly’ vegetables grown on their farm and giving away bowls of the most amazing soup made from the uglies. They weren’t really advertising where they were from too much but as we got into conversation about ugly vegetables, food waste and Hugh Fearnely Whittingstall, I asked more about their farm. The girl put the web address into my phone and I promised to look at it later. I thought it was a simply a local organic farm, which, of course, was of interest to me.IMG_2539Yesterday I was thinking again about food waste having watched the latest episode of War on Waste last night and reading tweets from friends on the issue so I took a moment to follow the link in my phone.

I was delighted to discover Svanholm is much more than a farm. As I mentioned above it is what they refer to as an intentional community or what would be more widely understood as a commune. Svanholm, located around 60km from Copenhagen in Skibby, is a group of people living together with the common goals of communal living, ecology, income sharing (80% of all income goes into the community), self-government and active decision-making which is consensus driven.

The community was founded in 1978 out of dissatisfaction with existing society and the desire to create something better and sustainable. It is Denmark’s largest and arguably most successful intentional community, with around 100 residents. Some parallels can be drawn with Christiania, another state within a state, but Svanholm wanted to start off legitimately so rather than squatting and having the fights associated with that kind of ownership, so they bought their 988 acres of property. This brings responsibility for the whole community as they share the burden of debt. Every member must be of value to the community in some way.

Whilst I don’t think I could live like this myself, I am a great believer in the value of intentional communities like this. They do not come without their own set of issues and problems but the idea of being separate from a lot of the wider issues of life and having a real control over things that impact you personally is very appealing. On their website they are very honest and say that their societal model is not utopia but they work hard to create the kind of place they are. I particularly liked this statement. “…people who, for some reason, don’t really fit-in “out-there in the big world”, but find a place at Svanholm where their oddities are not that odd and where there’s a need for them because there’s always a need for an extra pair of hands.”  This is a sentiment I believe in.

If you are interested in visiting Svanholm, they operate tours in the summer months and there are a few market days through the year. They will be holding a Christmas market on the 6th of December and there is a chance to take a tour of the community then.

Useful links

Svanholm (English)

Svanholm Story: Throw greed away and find happiness.


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