REAL Division of Estate…then and now

fields of agriculture, divided

real division of estate then...

Above their thrift and modesty, Swabians have a great sense for both pragmatism and fairness. But historically, those qualities have come to their economic disadvantage. Today, these qualities strike back!

Imagine you die and you have a huge piece of  farm land used for agriculture and three sons. Wouldn’t it be fair to divide this land equally among them? That’s what Swabians thought. It was called REAL division of estate (Realerbteilung).

Now, land in Swabia contains an abundance of a certain mineral, unfortunately in the form of stone, which makes it hard to cultivate. Trying to use the sparse resources most effectively, each strip of land is divided into three sections used differently in fall and summer then following a year in which the land could rest.

fields covered in solar panels

... and real division of estate today...covered in solar panels

This practice in combination with the real division of land – generation after generation – lead to smaller and smaller pieces of land that were ultimately too small to cultivate, a serious problem for farmers. Eventually, the practice of real division was abandoned, but it remained difficult to farm.

However, scarcity causes people to think in new ways as I was able to learn today on a flight over Swabia. A small piece of land might not be able to bring profit for a farmer today in its traditional way. Yet a Swabian land owner found a way to turn a small and nutrient-poor strip of farm land into a profitable space that brings him € 23.000 per month (in a good month) by setting up solar panels on his field and giving up agriculture entirely.

Thrift and pragmatism allowed this farmer to turn around his fortune. On top of this, he is helping the area to thrive by providing it with energy – just like generations of farmers did before him, with energy in the form of little bits of protein instead of electricity.

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