My farm is called the Lebensbaum (Tree of Life). In nature, each organism influences all other organisms, just as in the universe each planet, and each star has an influence on all the others. Thus the farm becomes a unique organism in which each living being needs the other: man, plant, animal and soil work together. If you look at the earth and the sky above and look at this wonderful diversity in between, you will see that beautiful, living structures emerge - a true tree of life. That's where the name of my farm comes from.
My farm is located in Croatia, in the region of Slavonia - in the so-called Golden Valley. Due to the many cereal fields, the valley really does look golden in high summer. The small village of Ugarci has just 57 inhabitants. Next to the golden cereal fields is our hazelnut plantation and there is a kind of park with many different medicinal herbs. Nearby is the Papuk National Park, and you can also enjoy the thermal baths, visit various religious institutions and a museum, or explore the countryside on the numerous hiking trails. Economically, the region has unfortunately somehow reached a dead end. Important roads such as the motorway are far away. People are mostly engaged in agriculture and only a few make a living from trade, gastronomy and tourism. Besides the jobs in my farm, I also bring joy and an awareness of a different approach, a different way of interacting with nature, people and animals to the region through my work.
I emigrated from Croatia to Switzerland at a very young age. The desire to build up a farm arose from the wish to do something good for my children, myself, nature and as many people as possible. I wanted to create a place where my children could put down roots, an oasis where people, animals and plants live in connection with nature and are happy to maintain and develop themselves and this oasis. I started buying one piece of land after another. In 2006, I finally planted the first hazelnut bushes and then bought some machines and the first tractor. Finally, I built the rest of the infrastructure with the stable and farm buildings until the circle was closed. Right from the beginning I focused on organic and even biodynamic farming, becoming a pioneer of biodynamic farming in Croatia, and I was a member of the Demeter association for a long time. I built all this up while commuting back and forth between Switzerland and Croatia. Besides all the joy my work gave me, there were also hard times. In 2020 I had to sell my beloved animals, my cattle herd. The difficulties during the Covid pandemic and my own health challenges unfortunately made it impossible to spend enough time in Croatia. Unfortunately, without animal husbandry, I could not keep my Demeter certification either. However, this has not changed the way I manage my farm. Now I am looking optimistically into the future again and I am sure that times will get better and I will be able to look after my farm more intensively. Maybe soon there will be animals living on my farm again.
We only work with biodynamic preparations made from various medicinal herbs such as camomile, nettle, yarrow etc. according to the teachings of Dr. Rudolf Steiner and spread them on the fields. We also make compost tea and use it to strengthen our hazelnuts and cereals via the leaves. Beyond the methods of biodynamic agriculture, I always try to protect the nature that surrounds me and to promote a harmonious coexistence. My hazelnut bushes are ideally adapted to local conditions and do not need artificial irrigation. Unwanted weeds are removed mechanically up to four times a year so that they do not get out of hand, and I encourage beneficial insects to help me keep pests at bay. To do this, I plant flowering strips, set up insect hotels and throw cut branches into piles that serve as shelter for the beneficial insects. When our fields are not cultivated with cereals or other agricultural crops, they are always covered with a mix of flowers that serve as a food source for bees, clover grass or lupins. This not only reduces erosion and decreases the emergence of weeds, but also promotes soil life and fertility and increases biodiversity. I respect nature and give it plenty of space on my land to promote biodiversity. In addition to various trees and shrubs growing on and around my plots, some of which even form small forests, there are grassland areas that are not cultivated but only mowed or mulched. We collect rainwater in a tank to use it for various purposes on the farm.
I only sell nuts that look healthy and vital. The sorted nuts and the shells are ground and spread as fertiliser. The tree cuttings are shredded directly on the fields and enrich the soil there, larger branches are placed in piles and serve as a protection for small animals. The remaining waste products are composted and become valuable fertiliser for the hazelnut bushes.
After I was hardly able to put any work into my farm during the Covid pandemic and the business was more or less dormant, I am all the more pleased that I have now been able to employ 3 permanent staff again since the beginning of 2022. They are paid above the standard wage and I attach great importance to a harmonious working atmosphere.