Our farm, Engelnhof, in Papenburg (Lower Saxony), has been run by our family since 1904. At first it was run as a typical mixed farm with pigs, cows, grain, and potatoes. Then, in 1962, we moved from the outskirts of Papenburg to the Aschendorfer Moor which is about 3 km away, where I grew up. Here my parents expected a rather barren and rough moor landscape, which later gave one of my cheeses, the Papenburger Moorkäse, its name. My parents started there with about 26 hectares of land. A large part of the land here is high moorland, and 600 m away from the farm there is also a moorland nature reserve.
Since 1977 we have specialized in dairy farming. A modern dairy cattle shed was built for the conditions of that time. In 1994 I, Ludger Engeln, took over the farm after completing my master thesis. I am the third generation running the farm with my family. When I took over I also started to deal with the direct marketing of milk and artisanal dairy products, and gave the farm the name "Engelnhof", after my surname. I converted the farm to organic and opened the barn gates. It was a great feeling to see the animals roaming in the pasture again. The grazing season is roughly from April to autumn, but afterwards our ladies enjoy a beautiful outdoor yard and a very open, spacious stable so that they can always be in the fresh air.
In 2002 we built our cheese dairy. Since 2012 we have concentrated more on the artisanal production of cheese. In 2016 we built a new, very modern and animal-friendly cow barn. And in the same year we started with process of conversion to organic farming. Since September 2017 the conversion has been completed and we have been a recognized organic farm since then. We grow organic chive bales for Papenburg organic gardeners - perhaps soon also organic parsley! By using high-tech, we try to avoid herbicides and refrain from taking on seasonal workers from abroad. A rented farm droid - a kind of seed robot - has been doing the sowing for us. For several years now, we have also been growing bush beans, which will in future go to an organic processor in Schleswig-Holstein.
Today our team consists of 24 people. Several of them have been working with us for over ten years. Here is a small insight: Werner makes your cheese, Alex helps him and will soon also be a cheesemaker by profession. Susann, Dagmar and Aimée take care of administration, packaging and shipping. Maike manages the cowshed with my support. Half of my employees are women, and the rest are men. All of our employees receive at least the statutory minimum wage. The team is provided with e-bikes, and I also offer them affordable accommodation on the farm, in fact 11 of my employees are currently here! I think it's great having such a vibrant farm. And the commute to work, for example to the cheese dairy, is of course shorter! This also allows the team to better balance work and family life.
The liquid manure and dung produced on the farm, feed leftovers, and renewable raw materials, are fermented in our own ecogas plant. The resulting ecogas is converted into electricity and heat in the company's own combined heat and power plants. The electricity is then fed into the public grid. The heat is used on our own plant and in a neighbouring nursery. The resulting organic fermentation residue is spread on our fields as a readily usable organic fertiliser.
Through a varied crop rotation on our organically farmed, arable land (red clover grass, bush beans, maize, rye and chives) we promote biodiversity and sustainably enhance soil fertility. We do not use any synthetically produced pesticides, rather we hoe and "currycomb" the weeds (mechanical processes). This allows us to offer our cows a balanced diet from our own and leased land. Flowering plants such as red and white clover on our land promote insects, and we have many bird shelters on the farm, including barn owl shelters. Together with the NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union), we recently built a kestrel's nest and a stork's nest as well. They will hopefully be occupied soon! When we buy in feed, it comes only from recognised organic farms. A lactating cow eats about 45 kg of "cow muesli" daily and drinks 40-100 litres of water. In summer they go out to pasture, and since we live in a very humid moorland area, the water supply is unproblematic.