We are "bioLesker". "Bio" – organic – because we live this as a matter of conviction, and "Lesker", because we are the Leskers. My parents ran the farm conventionally with cows until 1993.
But standing in the stable was just not my thing. And, so, in 1993, we began to run things organically and joined the Bioland association. We opened our first small farm shop in 1994, and, since then, we have been working to convince more and more people to opt for organic.
Our Bioland vegetable nursery is framed by Wallhecken in the west of Stadtlohn. We have been living organic since 1993. Our name stands for sustainable, healthy and tasty food that is produced in a transparent way using organic methods. Holistic, natural and with heart!
We work according to the strict Bioland guidelines, rely on natural processes and cycles, and try to keep our input as low as possible in all areas.
Stadtlohn is located in the beautiful Westmünsterland. Not far from the Dutch border, our region offers a landscape full of hedges and forests, sometimes hilly, sometimes less so. The agriculture is still rather compartmentalised, and the fields are moderately large. Every year at the beginning of March, we have the pleasure of welcoming lapwings again, and it is not uncommon for the skylark to sing us a beautiful song when she stands steep above our vegetable fields and rejoices in her life.
The Westmünsterland used to be a region characterised by weaving, and spinning and it took us a long time to recover from the decline of that industry. Some cities are still fighting today. However, the transformation has taken place, and, today, there are quite a few hidden champions who are world market leaders in their respective fields. Mechanical engineering is strongly represented, and software companies are increasingly joining the mix as well.
With almost 70 employees, we at bioLesker make a significant contribution to the economic success of our region. In addition to our ecological standards, we also have high social standards. We have abolished hierarchical behaviour and always treat each other with respect. Fair payment is a matter of course. In our nursery, we work in an international team in which the working language is English. Our employees come from Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Every year, we give some students from Eastern Europe the opportunity to deepen their knowledge in an internship. For us, accommodation is just as important as support with official formalities or having access to free food.
To counteract food waste, we have our "Nimm-mit Platz" (takeaway spot), where everything that is not sellable will end up. We sell surpluses and items that have been sorted out from the shop to "too good to go" for one small euro and donate the proceeds predominantly to regional projects.
In our market garden, as well as in the greenhouses, we work with a thick compost layer and thus hardly deal with any weeds. In addition, the plants have a rich, loose soil into which they can easily push their roots. The compost is partly homemade, and then we partly buy Bioland certified compost. In addition, we spice up the compost with all kinds of good things, such as Eifelgold, a volcanic rock powder, with herbal and plant extracts, and with humic and fulvic acids. And of course we don't forget the main ingredient, nitrogen. We also rely on fermented vegetable and food waste, but also on alfalfa pellets or malt germ fertilisers. It is precisely because we want to apply as little organic crop protection as possible that we have to supply the plants optimally. Because only a very healthy plant can defend itself against diseases such as mildew and against so-called pests. The question is therefore not only what amount of fertiliser to use, but rather, what should I use, and how will the plant absorb this nutrient. We feed the soil, not the plant. And we do this through our compost, and through other organic, but also mineral, fertilisers, such as potassium, magnesium and sulphur, and trace nutrients, such as boron and manganese. This ensures that the plant can photosynthesise to the maximum possible level. Because only then will it give back to the soil, via root exudates, what the soil needs to feed its microbes, bacteria and all the other little helpers. And they then ensure that the plant gets the nutrients it needs. A great system that would be just beautiful and perfect, if we understood it better.
The water for our vegetables comes largely from our large rainwater catchment basins, which carry almost 8,000 m3 – that's 8 million litres. We collect the rainwater from all areas of the roof, filter it, and apply it to the plants wherever possible in a water-saving manner via droplet irrigation, and thus in a very targeted manner. This is because cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are very thirsty and absorb a lot of water, and transpire it. This can quickly get to 3–4 litres per plant on sunny days in the greenhouse. In addition, however, we also wet the entire soil to enable the fine roots to absorb the nutrients provided by the soil life. And the soil life only works if it has something to drink. Microbes, bacteria, fungi, springtails, and many more, need water to live, just like we humans do.
Our humic soil, which stores water better, helps us much more with this than a light, sandy soil with a low humus content. Everything is connected to everything, and it all interacts. It is not least for this reason that, with some vegetable crops, such as the kohlrabi, we work with an organic mulch layer outdoors. This way, less water can evaporate and the soil is protected immediately after planting from harmful, excessive UV radiation, as well as from winds that dry it out and from rain erosion. Later in the year, our modern technology even allows us to mulch cover crops, that is, various mixtures of green and flowering plants into which we then plant directly after mulching, without moving the soil again. This saves water and does not release CO² into the atmosphere unnecessarily.
You see, we are quite innovative in how we go about things.
Our tasks thus include caring for and nurturing not only the plants, but also our employees and our social environment, as well as continuous further training, e.g., in the field of market gardening, regenerative agriculture, courses for soil practitioners, etc.
Incidentally, we compensate all CO² emissions arising in connection with our shop and delivery service via KlimAktiv and are working on becoming completely CO²-free in the nursery. When it comes to heating and electricity, we rely on 100% renewable energies. The thing that is still missing is compensation of the diesel for the machines.