Mid-March in Lana. Around 6 °C, a light fog that hangs in the groves but then quickly lifts. Otherwise fresh and green, the grove now lies fallow. It is sleeping, taking a rest. Only for a little while longer, as here and there the first small buds are peering out from the twig ends and the grass on the ground is already adding a dusting of soft, light green to the grey landscape. And something else is popping up in the middle of the field, moving back and forth among the young trees...
Grey boots, grey trousers and a green jumper. The perfect camouflage, but his movements gave him away. Hannes is fixing a cross anchor in place as a support frame for the young saplings. He’s re-tensioning a cable here and looking for loose stakes there. Now, after pruning, is the perfect time for work like this. At least for Hannes, who farms the 7.5 hectare apple grove alone. During the growing season, there isn’t much time for such work; above all, because Hannes cultivates a total of 7 varieties of organic apple: Gala, Granny Smith, Natyra®, Story®, Golden and Red Delicious as well as a few Braeburn. Each variety has its own unique flavour, and each one has its own particular character. Some require more care and some less, and each variety has its own rhythm over the year.
“I’m a born farmer; I grew up with agriculture.”
Hannes knows their rhythms and is in perfect harmony with them. He is literally a born farmer and grew up with agriculture. Always helped on the farm when he was a boy, and not only in the summer. He started out farming together with his grandfather, and then took over the farm. Alone today, but of course with a few good helpers at harvest time. There is also his wife, who helps where it is needed and has his back.
Back then, nobody asked if he wanted to or not. But either way, Hannes never thought much about it. If you ask a 16-year-old what he wants to do for a living, he is probably happy if someone makes the decision for him. At least that was the case with Hannes. Maybe one of his two sons will take over the farm some day, if he wants to. He’ll see. They are currently having lots of fun driving the tractor, and if it stays that way, it could be an option. In the event, he was happy to stay on the farm, he’s always enjoyed working there. Hannes admits that he isn’t the type of person who enjoys having lots of people around all the time. And who loves to be outside, in the meadows, in his thoughts and in his rhythm. All that gives him so much.
Not that he is a lone wolf, not at all. His family means everything to him, and he has a handful of good friends and a nice group of comrades who he meets up with regularly. They go downhill biking in the summer and snowboarding in the winter. And since his leg injury in a dirt jumping fall, which more or less spoiled snowboarding from him, they also go Telemark skiing. That’s an old skiing technique with toe-only bindings, and the rear foot is used to keep balance in a turn while the weight is on the front foot to carve it.
But let’s leave the slopes and get back to his farm. Hannes took it over in 2003. In 2017, he completed the switch to organic cultivation. He had toyed with the idea much earlier, but thought it might be too much for him. But in 2017 he finally made up his mind – and he says he is happy that he did. If for no other reason than he was pleased that the organic farmers he met were a little bit different. He liked the small difference.
And here he is now, in the middle of the grove. He’s enjoying every single bud. That’s understandable, as they mark the spots where attractive, crispy apples will later hang. And he is happy about his honeybees. He used to purchase boxes of bumblebees to pollinate the apple groves. 400 bumblebees per box for an entire summer. Only one survives the winter: the queen bee. Sad, somehow. It’s different with the honeybees. With the help of YouTube, Hannes taught himself how to keep bees – at least, it inspired him to watch many videos and learn. The beekeeper’s association in the village provided him with the rest of the support he needed.
He started out with two beehives, and now he has four. He has thousands of honeybees and they keep him busy. They are somewhat particular; only fly when the weather is good. But they are industrious, without a doubt. Hannes likes to watch his honeybees flying, from tree to tree and from flower to flower. They do their job, each on its own and without any fuss. And that mirrors Hannes’ own style.