July 2017, not far from Tramin. A small group of men sit around the table in a summerhouse in the meadow, a coffee pot is bubbling on the hob. It smells of summer and coffee. And slices of homemade apple cake lie ready on plates. Well, what else did you expect? A slight breeze brushes the white hair of one of the men, who strokes his beard before pronouncing his now legendary statement into the South Tyrolean air: “First think it through, then put it in the meadow.” Bam! With that, he is able to pack his entire philosophy and half his life into a single, crystal clear sentence.
Hartmann Calliari. First-generation organic farmer and currently Vice Chairman of our cooperative Biosüdtirol. This afternoon chat in his summerhouse is all about organic apple cultivation in South Tyrol, the criticism that accompanied its beginnings and the cooperative: “It all started with the idea of six headstrong mules – that they would sell organic apples that they had cultivated themselves.” That was in 1990. Today the cooperative numbers over 200 organic farmers who, together with their families, manage their farms and meadows on a purely organic basis. “And just as resolutely and small-structured as it was back then,” says Hartmann.
Hartmann loves to compare the story of Biosüdtirol with a leap into ice-cold water. He knows all about the teething problems, the resistance to the project in the village, the concerns of some of his family members – and his own doubts. He understands the challenge of reinventing yourself and re-establishing yourself alongside other bioneers (biological pioneers). He has gone through the risk, sweated the work and the small stuff – signing the guarantees for the apple baskets and packing the apples himself after the harvest. And he has also experienced the joy of an idea finally blossoming like a flower: “It was a wonderful feeling to be able to work alongside my wife Judith and prove to my father that organic farming also works for apple cultivation.”
“Change your way of thinking first – and then your way of doing business.”
To achieve all this Hartmann has worked for many years with a number of like-minded and equally headstrong people. His determination and openness to new ideas and people is key to his success. And he knows that nothing stays the same. Now and then, he reveals with a twinkle in his eye that he has just copied something from the “young ‘uns”. But he also shares his experience with like-minded individuals and farmers who would like to switch to organic methods, perhaps, at some point. It’s these people in particular he urges to take his guiding principle to heart: “Change your way of thinking first – and then your way of doing business. First think it through – then put it in the meadow.” It is the only way to weather the initial set-backs. And the first fruits will already be waiting for harvest at the very end of the meadow.
June 2018, on a motorway in the South Tyrol. Hartmann is accompanying a group of young organic farmers when suddenly his mobile phone buzzes. His daughter has sent him some photos from the meadow. “Ospele!” he curses – apple scab, a fungal infection that can lead to extensive damage to the structure of the apple skin. The infection has taken hold of one of his meadows. But Hartmann already has a solution to present to his young colleagues: “Next year I’ll inspect everything even more carefully in the rainy periods! Targeted lime-sulphur sprays will usually prevent apple scab infection.”
And it’s typical of Hartmann: get him on the topic of the meadow and he can’t seem to stop talking. His son Clemens and his friends will soon be completing their Matura examinations (the equivalent of A Levels) they plan to celebrate at home and not in town. The young farmers are thrilled and Hartmann rapidly recruits one of them to be the barman for the party. Sure thing! As it happens, the party won’t be taking place in a cellar or in a garden. Instead, it’ll be in the summerhouse in the apple meadow. That’s completely logical for the Calliari family, because their meadows are more than just the place where the apple trees grow. The meadows are their living room.