Our organic fruit farm is located in Meckenheim, about 20 km west of Bonn. The first hilly foothills of the Eifel appear directly behind our farm. On the other side, it goes down towards the Rhine Valley with the cities of Cologne and Bonn. Koblenz can also be reached within 30 minutes. We cultivate apples, pears, currants and sour cherries on very fertile soils between the Eifel National Park and the Rhine. These fertile soils are also the reason that the region around Meckenheim is known for growing fruits.
We are the 4th generation running the farm, which I took over from my parents. We are supported by our two children, plus up to 20 employees per year, all of whom have been working for us for several years. In addition to two permanent employees, we employ four temporary workers over the year for packing and delivering our goods, and up to 14 seasonal workers for work in the fields and in processing. All our employees have a valid employment contract and receive at least the minimum wage. All social security contributions are paid for the seasonal workers we employ. They live with us at the farm in shared accommodation. Some of them are with us for six months at a time. They have Internet access throughout the company. Working and social conditions are also checked annually by an independent supervisory body.
Our common wish: A fruit farm in harmony with nature! In the past, the farm was a classic, mixed farm, with a few animals, arable farming and more. My grandfather had already started planting fruit trees on the land, and my father then turned the farm into a pure fruit farm in the mid-1980s. In addition to innovations in apple varieties and the introduction of machines to facilitate the harvesting and cultivation of our land, the biggest change in recent years was the move to organic cultivation in 2016. The conversion to organic farming was completed in accordance with the EU organic regulation, in 2019. Today we also cultivate our fruit according to the guidelines of Bioland, and we try to actively contribute to the preservation of biodiversity. To do this we create as many areas with flowers as possible. In addition to the cultivated crops, there are also roses and herbs everywhere in the plantations as so-called anchor plants (our rows are always fastened to the ground with ground anchors at the front and back, and we place various plants on these anchors), flower strips in the rows and perennial borders at the edge. This way, we can actively contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, as we provide insects with habitats and food.
Despite these measures, the economic situation has become increasingly difficult in recent years, especially due to climate change. At the moment we can only use drip irrigation on about 1/4 of our surface, since there is no connection to a water pipe or a well on the other areas. Since groundwater is only found here in the region at a depth of about 100m - and even then it is not clear how much water can be obtained from it, - well drilling is unfortunately not an option. The existing irrigation system, which we still use on one part, is many years old. When it was built, less water was needed and the pipes were designed for less space. It could, therefore, happen that today the water pressure is no longer sufficient to irrigate all connected areas. As a result, our trees sometimes receive far less water than they actually need as a result of the dried-out soils. This leads to smaller apples, as well as fewer apples the following year because the trees do not have the necessary energy to grow flowers. Without water, they cannot absorb nutrients. In order to have more water available on a larger expanse of land in the future, reservoirs are currently being built in the area, from which we can then irrigate our land along with our colleagues. Intelligent control using moisture sensors in the soil means it is possible to water only when the soil really needs it.
For us, responsible use of scarce resources is just as much a part of sustainable, ecological agriculture as the promotion of beneficial organisms (e.g. through nesting aids, forage sources and simply "messy corners" in the field) and biodiversity in general. Therefore, our land is not always "tidy". We only remove weeds where it is really necessary, with the help of a mechanical chopper, and we only mulch the lanes in alternation, so that at least every second row still has some flowers. Beneficial insects help us to naturally combat organisms that damage our trees and fruit, so that we have to carry out less or, depending on the pest, no further plant protection measures. So encouraging their presence is particularly important to us.
We use 100% green electricity for running our business and produce about 1/3 of our annual need ourselves with a photovoltaic system.
For you CrowdFarmers, it will mainly be us, my wife Monika and I, who will be active, supported by two to three employees who will pack your packages. For this purpose, our apples and pears, for example, must be removed from the storage boxes, checked for quality and then carefully packed into the shipping box. Fruits that do not look so good due to hail, too little sun or other influences are sorted out and later processed into juice. We offer our employees flexible working hours, a relaxed working atmosphere and, of course, a flat rate on apples.
Since it is always difficult to establish a circular economy in a special crop farm without keeping animals, we use all the options available to us to return nutrients from our own farm to the land. For this purpose, all fruits that are no longer suitable for marketing or further processing are taken back to the land and cut into small pieces so that the nutrients are available again for the trees. The same applies to cut wood in winter. This allows us to reduce the supply of external fertilizer, which by the way is basically plant-based on our farm.