Our Lefers fruit farm shines bright from afar as you drive through the tranquil village of Jork. A red and white half-timbered building (“Fachwerkhaus”) with a huge apple figure in front of the entrance leaves no doubt about which fruit our farm is all about.
This fruit farm in Jork is my home, where my family has been growing fruit for about 250 years: Apples in particular, but also cherries, plums and pears grow here, in smaller quantities. My family lives and loves thoroughly the apple tradition of the __"Alte Land" region__. Hardly any other region in Germany is as famous for delicious, fresh, tangy apples.
We are lucky that the maritime North Sea climate ensures a balanced sugar-sourness ratio in the apples. Thanks to our location in the glacial valley of the Elbe river, we benefit from rich and heavy soils of clay and loam that store not only water but also nutrients well. Great conditions for the quite demanding fruit trees.
__Our home in the Alte Land region__
The farm has been family-owned for about 250 years. In the past, animals have been grazing under the large-crowned trees. Today, we work with smaller trees that offer more uniform and better fruit qualities. The smaller tree size ensures that all apples ripen under sun and similar conditions. The apple trees grow for about 20 years before we replace them with the next generation of trees.
Our home, the __"Alte Land" region__, is a natural-cultural landscape thousands of years old. Thanks to the proximity to the water bodies and the many extensive orchards, animals feel particularly at home. We have set up birdhouses for different songbirds in every orchard, as well as various stations for wild bee hotels, including mud supply/building material (for mason bees). We also care for kestrels and buzzards, owls and stone choughs with various nesting aids. In return, they help us and keep the mice in check ;-) Our farm is located in the countryside, however very close to Hamburg at the same time. And, even though we are still in Lower Saxony, we belong to Hamburg's suburbs. Most people here live directly or indirectly from fruit growing, or work for the big companies in the Hamburg area.
In my family, however, there has only ever been fruit growing as far as we can trace it back. I took over the farm in 2012 as the 8th generation. In 2017, I converted the cultivation to biodynamic farming. I wanted to ensure that we continue working with nature and not against it. Since then, I feel a more intense tie between nature, the tree and me, the fruit grower.
__What does biodynamic fruit growing mean? __
Here and there it might look wilder and untidier than in clean, strictly conventional orchards! We have sown flowering strips between the tree rows. This extra portion of biodiversity interacts with its surroundings and makes certain treatments against pests unnecessary. Weeds and grasses that compete for nutrients and water are regularly cut or mulched.
Surface water is collected via our irrigation reservoir. Many dragonflies live and reproduce here. We use the water up to twice a year, depending on the weather: In spring, it is used for frost protection sprinkling to protect the sensitive flowers from the cold temperatures at the beginning of May. In the dry years, we use the collected surface water with the help of drip irrigation in a targeted way to save our trees.
As you can see, there is a lot of work during the year. I am lucky though to count on a great team for support: In addition to me as the plant manager, two experienced and trained craftsmen in fruit growing and an apprentice are in charge of the trees. For example, we execute two prunings per year (winter and summer). All the branches and leaves from autumn are chopped up and composted directly on site. The soil organisms help us to convert all this natural material into new humus, which then immediately helps the trees to produce new beautiful apples. 5 other people help me with the distribution and the farm shop. During the harvest, our team grows dramatically and we are supported for a few weeks by 16 harvest workers, some of whom have been helping us with the apple harvest for many years and are all paid at least minimum wage. They mostly come from Romania and live with us on the farm during that period. If there is one thing that hasn’t changed over the centuries: Every single apple is still picked by hand and carefully placed in the boxes.
The "character apples", as I call them, are apples that are not suitable for the fresh market. They get a second chance and become delicious apple chips, apple juice, apple puree or a tasty cake.
For your box, we selectively harvest only the ripe fruits from the tree, so we have to harvest in several passes. This is more time-consuming, but tastier! This way we always pick only the big, red ripe fruits! We hope you’ll enjoy!