©  Photo:

MARK: What is lost on the outside... (An outline for life)

In 1864, Denmark lost the rich duchies of Schleswig and Holstein to the Germans. The country's area shrunk dramatically, the number of citizens was halved.

Large parts of the best agricultural land were lost. The defeat called for self-examination and a new national consciousness. The motto 'What is lost outwardly must be gained inwardly' resonated. This brought the large uncultivated areas in Jutland into focus, and the cultivation of the heath began in earnest.

From superstition to overconfidence

In the middle of the 19th century, humanity is in a paradigm shift of the greatest in history. The Enlightenment had laid the groundwork for a showdown against old dogmas, kingship and church. And with industrialization, we put steam into developing modern society, where nature is subject to people's pursuit of profit. Natural science overtakes the church's monopoly on truth. Reason, freedom and progress become the mantra of the times.

In the latter half of the 18th century, the state carried out a series of land reforms. The desire was to increase agricultural production. The traditional village community was broken up. The tenant farmer was (slowly) released. And with the ruler as the most important tool, new land divisions were created. The many small plots of land cultivated by a village farmer were gathered into one or a few fields. The shared grazing areas were included and included in the replacement. New fences were put up. Traditional cyclical agriculture had to give way. Now the progress was needed. New winds were blowing.

From extensive heath to sheltered fence

Large parts of Jutland were covered by heath in the 18th century. There were a few farmers who made a living from cultivating the moorland. But the heath farmers had to have several hundred acres of land and a number of secondary businesses to get by. They were few and lived on the conditions of the heath.

Several kings had looked at the heath to see if the extensive areas could not benefit the country. Frederik V, for example, lured around 1,000 farmers from Germany to the heath in 1758. Some dropped out. But others remained on the meager soil. They cultivated i.a. potatoes and was named after that.

It didn't really matter though. In the period from 1830-70, the Danish agricultural area was only increased by approx. 3%

The loss of the duchies set the heath cultivation in earnest. However, there were several factors that helped to get the shovel under the heat this time:

  • The farmers had better tools so that the meager lands could produce an acceptable yield – fertilizer, better tools and stronger horses
  • By planting leeward fences – led by the Hedeselskabet – sand drift was prevented and better growing conditions were achieved
  • Agriculture changed from primarily growing grain to keeping animals – dairy cattle, beef cattle, pigs and horses – which in turn provided fertilizer for the fields

With Hedeselskabet at the helm, the landscape changed its expression. From treeless expanses to plots fenced in by leeward fences laid out with mathematical precision. Plantations with trees in rows drawn according to a ruler. And efforts for drainage and regulation of watercourses.

The plans succeeded. The moors originally covered approx. one third of Jutland's area. Around 1950, only 2% remained.

Triumphant, the Hedeselskabet could celebrate the victory with a verse:

"We have a tyrant from the west,
it's the storm,
it's the wind.

Only one piece of advice against the one we found:

  1. F. Jensen, Hedeselskabet

Productivity increased and increased. But nature disappeared

The increase in productivity in agriculture from 1864 and 50 years on is impressive. The number of pigs increased fivefold. The cattle population grew by 100%. Three times as many horses were added. The cows gave three times as much milk in 1914 than at the beginning. And ever larger parts of the land came under the plow and were cultivated more intensively than ever before.

That development has continued until today, when pigs have been given extra ribs, so there is room for a few more chops per pig. hogs, and the cows now yield ten times as much as the cows did in 1864.

In recent years, especially organic farming has gained ground with the idea of ​​putting less pressure on animals, soil and crops. At the same time, we are in the process of correcting some of the things that went wrong in the heath cultivation - we are restoring wetlands and re-winding streams. And we give more space to nature year by year, among other things by giving up cultivating the marginal lands. The effort means that protected nature now covers around 12% of Denmark's area. However, there is still a long way to go until the 28% protected nature that researchers recommend that we have in Denmark.

In this case, the plans for the cultivation of the moor succeeded completely. However, the result was problematic. We won the hell out of it.

Come and see our exhibition Man and nature. Get a guided tour around the museum. And go out on the moor and imagine what the land looked like when the moor stretched as far as the eye could see.

Where does heath come from?

The moorland is, paradoxically, man-made. Paradoxical, because in many places today we lament that we humans almost wiped out the heath. For many years Jutland was covered with forest, but the former farmers cleared the forest to grow grain and make room for grazing. It already started in the Stone Age. But when the nutrient-poor soils are pressed, the sand flies if they are not protected by forest. And then the heath can take over.

Share your wonders: