The Palatinate town of Bad Dürkheim attracts people for its wine—not only during the world’s biggest wine festival, but all year round. A remarkable proportion of the attraction comes from a special ‘family business’: the wine-growing business of the ‘life support’ association Lebenshilfe Bad Dürkheim e.V.
There has been significant growth over the past 30 years. No, we’re not talking about master winegrower Jan Hock, but the Lebenshilfe Bad Dürkheim’s vineyard. When this unique experiment was launched in the 1980s, the association had no more than two hectares at its disposal. Now the vineyard, which has given people with impairments the opportunity to participate actively in working life as winegrowers, comprises as many as 25 hectares.
It is just past seven in the morning in Bad Dürkheim as a number of minibuses turn down a field path towards the old Dürkheim sawmill, passing the tall, glowing blue silo tower that soars into the Palatinate sky. This is where the cheerful winegrowers meet every morning, having covered long distances every day to get here. They come from Ludwigshafen, Eisenberg or Bad Bergzabern, where they live with their families or in integrated residence or house-share projects. Supported by Jan’s team, they are a crucial part of the wine-growing business that produces up to 120,000 bottles of wine per year, which have come to sell like hot cakes—even internationally.
Jan enjoys meeting the customers on the small but sweet organic food market, ran by the association to offer products from their own production. Deidesheim-born Jan is in his early thirties and has known the association’s business for well over a decade. “After completing school, I did my community service here in the wine-growing department. It meant getting up early and working hard every day. But that didn’t turn me off, it rather filled me with enthusiasm—thanks to the team spirit.”