How does an orchard become an organic orchard? Josef doesn't believe there is a single answer to this question. Instead, he sees many building blocks that together form a whole: he plants hedges, builds stone mounds, places shrubs in front of most rows of apple trees and sows seeds in the tramlines. This creates homes for helpful organisms, increases biodiversity and promotes the stability of the ecosystem. In order to promote sustainable diversity, he mulches the tramlines only once a year, just before the harvest. This increases the number of flora species and allows herbs to grow. And this attracts wild animals.
His farm is located not far from the village of St. Michael/Eppan in a picturesque spot surrounded by orchards and mediaeval castles. Josef runs holiday apartments with his wife Ulrike and invites guests to enjoy a holiday on the farm. They see themselves not only as hosts, but also as companions and narrators: giving their guests an insight into organic farming and the South Tyrolean way of life.
Guests on his farm tours find him to be both a good listener and a good talker. But his commitment doesn't end where his land stops. As an elected board member of the Biosüdtirol organic farming cooperative and spokesman for the Bioland Südtirol association for organic agriculture, he offers just as many ideas and just as much energy as he always has.
“I don’t want to preach. I prefer to show how I work and discuss things with everyone. I’m happy if I can inspire people.”
Josef chooses his apple varieties with foresight: the trees might be very young but they will be living in the orchard for around 15 to 20 years.In the last ten years, he has introduced a philosophy of cultivating scab-resistant varieties such as Topaz, Natyra® and Bonita combined with brave decision-making. When Josef is convinced by the suitability of a variety for an orchard’s altitude, soil and microclimate, he doesn't shy away from challenges. He was one of the first to plant the Natyra® variety, which is known for being delicious but difficult to grow.
He believes experience is most useful when it is shared. On an inspection of the fields he showed 30 growers from his organic cooperative Biosüdtirol how well the Natyra® variety thrives when they are well looked after. Thankfully his ideas fell on fertile ground and the variety can now be found in several Biosüdtirol orchards.
Josef's eye for detail can also be seen in his second passion: photography. His subjects included ice-covered apple blossom, lively fauna, flowering fields, the moon and herbs, one of his wife’s great passions.
Our first meeting with Josef in the summer of 2017 was no coincidence. To develop a visual language for our Biosüdtirol brand, our photographer Jasmine Deporta had him guide her through his fields. His gift to inspire and bring stories to life helped her see the colourful world of organic apples with new eyes and translate it into authentic images. Jasmine captures panoramas, close-ups, apple trees, hail nets, concrete columns, irrigation hoses, people, machines and much more without the need to glorify or embellish them. Her pictures have the same simple honesty of one of Josef’s stories.