Our Biohof Roth is still a true story-book farm. Pigs, chickens, geese, rabbits and much more grunt and chatter around here, mixed in with the neighing of our horse. The farm is located in the north-easternmost part of Austria and it bears our family name.
We are already part of the Hungarian lowlands. With relatively low precipitation and an annual average of 10 degrees Celsius, northern Burgenland is one of the warmest areas in Austria. The main crops grown here are grains, maize and, more recently, potatoes.
Our farm has been cultivated for more than 120 years. Arable farming, i.e., production of grain and maize sold for cattle feed, has always been practised here. My husband Joachim is the 4th generation to take over the business from his parents. From an early age, it was clear that he too would become a farmer, so he started working early, and over time he has left his mark on the farm. We even had a wine farm about 20 km away, which our daughter now continues to run.
Our region is also designated as a bustard sanctuary, and we actively participate in protecting this endangered bird species by leaving areas fallow for several years. The great bustard, for example, has a safe refuge for breeding in these reserved areas. During the day they like to fly out to neighbouring Slovakia to take a dip in the Danube. :-)
We converted our farm to organic in 2008. By cultivating different crop rotations and changing the climate, we soon got around to cultivating legumes. For us, that was the biggest change that came with the conversion to organic. Legumes are quite resistant and can manage with less fertiliser, which we are almost unable to use whatsoever in organic farming. We no longer fertilise at all, instead seeking to improve our nutrient balances via clever crop rotation with lots of legumes, which draw the nitrogen themselves from the air and into the soil. Nitrogen is one of the three most important plant nutrients relevant to growth: the NPK trio of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).
We started growing chickpeas, lentils and edible soybeans seven years ago. Soybeans love nutrient-rich, humus-rich soils, while lentils and chickpeas are less demanding of their location and can cope with poor soils. Depending on the weather and the crop, we sow the legumes between March and the beginning of May. Soybeans and chickpeas are grown in rows, so it is easier for us to control weeds both mechanically and manually. The lentils, however, are sown over a large area, and the dense cover means that hardly any weeds get through. In phases of low rainfall, only the soybeans need to be irrigated once or twice at the most with water from our own well. We only grow soybeans on soils that can retain moisture for longer and have a very high humus content. Fortunately, the other crops can manage without irrigation. Pests are not something we have to deal with, luckily.
We are a family business, with my husband, his father, and our daughter's boyfriend working full time in the business. The whole family works during the summer months. For us, it is important to produce high-quality products in a way that is environmentally friendly and sustainable. Our business is characterised by the fact that we do all the different tasks ourselves. It starts with sowing, caring for, harvesting and packaging the products.
We grind the sorted harvest and products that are not suitable for sale and feed them to our pigs. We keep some pigs, geese, rabbits and chickens, and cultivate a vegetable garden exclusively for our own needs.
Everything finds its place in the cycle here!