"Bioinsel" in Harburg

“Bioinsel”: This is Hamburg’s oldest eco shop

The “Bioinsel” in Harburg has been in existence for 35 years – it offers more than just food. How about a cup of tea, for example?

Regional vegetables, cheese, bread, coffee and tea specialties: the most amazing delicacies are lined up in this small, inconspicuous shop very close to the Harburg town hall. All products in the “Bioinsel” are produced ecologically and many are delivered directly from regional companies. That alone is not even unusual today in the age of organic supermarkets. When the Bioinsel opened for the first time, that was it. The shop on Julius-Ludowieg-Strasse has been around for 35 years. The Bioinsel is Hamburg’s oldest existing organic shop.

“Personal commitment enables the Bioinsel to be preserved,” says owner Thomas Jörck, who has been running the shop for eleven years. He greets many customers by name and invites everyone to a cup of tea. In a small seating area you can relax before shopping and eat a piece of cake. The customers obviously appreciate the cozy atmosphere of the organic island: 500 to 600 visit the shop every week, 9o percent of them are regular customers.

The Kinzel-Katzorreck couple enter the shop for the first time. Bärbel Kinzel stands by the vegetables and asks: “How do you shop here?” “With pleasure, best,” replies Jörck and hands her a paper bag for the potatoes. The owner and Bernd Katzorreck immediately engage in a conversation about organic farming. After shopping, the couple agree: in the future they would like to buy organic products more often and visit the store regularly. “Everything is very loving here,” says Bärbel Kinzel at the end of her first visit.

Thomas Jörck takes the exchange with customers very seriously. That’s why he offers more than just goods. Customers can discuss organic farming with farmers and manufacturers on several evenings a year. Buyers often asked about alternative options to plastic, so “packaging” was the topic of the recent panel. The next evening in the coming winter is dedicated to the question “Which organic do we want?”.

Thomas Jörck also organizes trips to organic farms. Next up is a farm in Lenthförden where dairy cows look after their calves themselves. So most of the milk goes to the calf and not to the dairy. There, customers will see how the cows whose milk is in the Bioinsel’s refrigerated section are treated.

Not only the milk is bought regionally. Vegetables, eggs and bread are supplied by the Wörme farm and the Arpshof farm in Wenzendorf. However, this regional quality also has its price, which some customers have to get used to. “The food is free of pesticides, good for the climate, biodiversity and also for your own health. It’s not so easy to implement this cheaply and at the same time pay the farmers fairly,” says Thomas Jörk. He knows what he’s talking about. Before Jörck took over the business, he was an organic farmer himself for many years.

The Bioinsel offers a total of 3000 products on just 95 square meters. Thomas Jörck passes on groceries that are no longer suitable for sale to the “Sofa-Café”. The café processes the donated food into vegan dishes, which are offered in the “Sofa-Café” for a donation. After the shop closes, he puts the remaining products that are not for sale in a box on the doorstep. “It’s usually gone by the next morning,” he says. In addition, Thomas Jörk is also networked with the “foodsharing” initiative, which works to combat food waste.

In addition to the owner, two employees, two trainees and three interns currently look after the shop. The 19-year-old intern Mehari from Eritrea has been working on the organic island for a week. “Pulled hemp seeds” is certainly not only a foreign word for him, who is still struggling with the German language. The former florist and current intern Martina Becker is at the checkout. She came to the island as part of a vocational rehabilitation program run by the Vocational Training Center (BTZ).

“There aren’t many shops like this anymore. The spelled flour is ground in-house and the tea is filled by hand. It’s nice to see how the customers sit down and chat with the neighbors here,” she says of her workplace. It’s not just about food. Relaxation in everyday life, integration and commitment are also part of the range.