Our farm has been called B&B Raritäten since we took it over from Gerald's parents in 2013. B&B is made up of the two surnames Maria Bernhart and Gerald Binder and symbolises our common future (life) path. We are a team of two.
The term “Raritäten” translated means “rarities” and illustrates that we have moved away from the cultivation of conventional arable crops such as corn and cereals towards specialties and rarities, especially in vegetable growing. For our intention, the cultivation of the Styrian oil pumpkin PGI and the Styrian Scarlet Runner Bean PDO have offered themselves, as these have been grown for generations to supply family and friends. It is our aim to carry these wonderful products beyond the small village boundaries. In addition to these, we like to try new and exotic things. These include, for example, watermelons, ground cherries and peanuts, which also grow well here.
Our parents' farm is located in the middle of a small village consisting of 10 farms in Eibiswald, in South-West Styria. In the course of modernisation and adaptation to the future needs of selling directly from the farm, we decided to relocate our farm site from the village area for reasons of space. In the spring of 2020, we started to set up new facilities “in the countryside”. We are planning the completion of our new home with the associated working and storage spaces as well as a new on-farm sales point for summer 2021.
Styria is known as the “green heart” of Austria. The reason for this is the forest share of over 60%. The hilly landscape of south-west Styria is covered with cultivated arable land (corn, grain, oil pumpkin); lush green meadows and forests are also part of it. Due to the favorable location in the illyric climate region, wine is also widely grown on the hillsides. The further you get to southwest Styria, the smaller the farms are. Running waters, brooks and small streams are mostly overgrown and therefore offer animals untouched places to live.
In the vicinity there is the Koralpe, a mountain range of the Alps with a height of approx. 2000 m, which separates the provinces of Styria and Carinthia. In the south there is the border to Slovenia, approx. 10 km away. The capital of Styria, Graz, the second largest city in Austria, is approx. 55 km away.
With small scale agriculture it has become more and more difficult in the past few years to withstand the economic pressure, as a result of which the farm dying has been particularly noticeable in our region recently. As a result, more and more young people are leaving their homes and moving to the city. We want to counteract this trend and try to build an economic pillar for our farm with our products.
Gerald and I met in 2007. In 2013, Gerald's parents passed the farm on to both of us, as his father received from his grandfather several years before. Even if the farm has already been handed over, the support from the parents' many years of experience is very valuable to us. My parents also own a farm, which means that we both grew up close to nature. Our farm has been run as a small family farm for generations. A cohesion and working together of the generations was and is a matter of course.
Since the takeover, our focus has been on the production of oil pumpkin and Scarlet Runner Beans. The special thing about the Scarlet Runner Bean is that it is a historically important source of protein for human consumption in our region. The seeds were grown for decades by their great-grandparents and the most beautiful and best beans were used as seeds year after year. For marketable production, we have converted on our farm the traditional cultivation on bars in the garden into a mixed culture. This means that corn and beans are grown in the same field. This combination makes work easier and larger quantities can be harvested. So we can not only produce this bean for our own use, but also offer it for sale.
The oil pumpkin has also been part of our farm for as long as Gerald can remember, in order to produce the “black gold of Styria” from it. Formerly, only small acreages were grown to cover their own needs. When he was a child, his grandmother also grew the oil pumpkin in the corn field. In autumn the harvest took place in the field over several days. The pumpkins had to be collected by hand, chopped up and the seeds cleaned in buckets. The whole family was assigned to this. Then the seeds obtained had to be washed and dried. The oil is still pressed in a traditional oil press in the neighboring village. The nutty taste of the freshly pressed oil is simply indescribable! Nowadays, the harvesting and downstream processes to obtain the dry seeds are carried out mechanically together with contractors, which means that larger quantities can also be produced for sale. For this purpose, special harvesting machines and techniques have been developed that enable harvest in time.
Due to our geographically favorable location, the water to supply our crops comes from natural irrigation through rain (no artificial irrigation). We are a conventionally working farm. However, we have set ourselves the goal of focusing on sustainability and the circular economy in conventional agriculture in order to minimise the use of pesticides and mineral oil-based products. We are careful to keep the resources used as low as possible. We live the principle of “repair” instead of “new” at our farm. As farmers, we have a responsibility to pay particular attention to sustainability. Especially in the forest, with fertilisation, crop rotation, to name just a few examples. We manage biodiversity areas such as permanent grassland or orchards. A late mowing of meadows gives the plants and animals adequate time and habitat for their development.
All of the energy for heating and hot water on the farm comes from using wood from our own forest. The forest is managed sustainably. After a tree has been felled, approx. 10 young trees are planted for reforestation. However, planting is often not necessary when the natural regeneration of the forest is sufficient. In our experience, organic waste is never produced on a farm, it just has to be used adequately. Most of the plant parts that are not required remain in the field after harvest and serve as fertiliser for the subsequent crop. In addition, products that are not suitable for sale are fed to the farm's chickens or composted for manure.
For us, the economic survival of our farm is the main goal. Thus, a salary is difficult to define. In our opinion, the aim should be that agricultural work is recognised and appreciated by the community, which should be reflected in the product price in a fair and equitable manner. A direct sale to the end consumer, as implemented by CrowdFarming, is a big step in this direction.