In 1360, the Runstnerhof farm appeared in documents for the first time. Despite the history, the Zischg family reinterprets tradition. Not the first-born son, but Georg, the second oldest, takes over the farm. This way Georg's wish comes true: already at the age of eight, Georg draws a picture and writes "My father is a farmer and I want to be a farmer too one day."
When he took over the farm, Georg toyed with the idea of switching to organic farming. A little later, Georg, together with his wife Carmen and their children Jana and Fabian, make the decision and convert. Already as a conventional farmer, Georg counts the pests and helpful insects before he applies plant protection products. He cleans the tree strips mechanically with brushes and not with weed killer. Because he loves the greenery in the apple orchards.
As an organic farmer, Georg is concerned with keeping nature in balance, promoting soil life and keeping the trees vital. "In addition to the work in the meadow, the further training provided by organic associations and the knowledge of fellow organic farmers are a good source. All this helps me to understand the cause-and-effect principle in a new way."
With good equipment, the work succeeds better. With this conviction, the Zischg family farm relies for several years on technology. Electric shears make manual pruning easier in winter, the electric platform is used all year round, and the Pluk-O-Trak is used for harvesting. Conveyor belts at different heights on the harvester carefully transport the hand-picked apples to the crate. This is easy on the backs of the harvesters: and also easy on the apples.
Gala, Golden, RedPop®, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Fuji and Pink Lady®. They harvest each variety at the Runstnerhof in several picking rounds. It’s time-consuming but the apples taste better, as only the ripest are picked. The Zischgs have been working with the same harvesters for years. A group from Slovakia has been with them for over twenty years. They work as bricklayers, salesmen, engineers, laundresses or in the steel factory and take holidays to bring in the harvest. Besides their wages, they get appreciation from the Zischg family. Carmen cooks for everyone herself. When a long-time employee got married a few years ago, the Zischgs went to the north-east of Slovakia for the wedding.
Three generations of Zischgs work in the apple orchards. Georg's father Hanspeter is at work on the farm all year round, and Jana and Fabian are also harvesting. Fabian is currently doing his agricultural apprenticeship and may one day lead the farm into the next generation. With this support, Georg finds the time to work for the village community as deputy mayor and chairman of the village band.
“Equality tires. Diversity and community enliven.” Georg Zischg
Georg is enthusiastic about working in nature and the family tradition of South Tyrolean agriculture. Austrian and German farmer colleagues often ask him how small farms can survive in South Tyrol. For Georg, three factors are decisive: "The cohesion in the families, the Alpine-Mediterranean climate and the joint marketing via cooperatives."
Georg has not discovered these three special features in combination on any of his trips. Carried by the philosophy of "live and let live", the Zischgs travel through different countries by camper. They immerse themselves in different cultures, relax and think outside the box. Their travels inspire them to create a place on the farm where people meet and get in touch with agriculture.
"Be yourself, everything else already exists." This is the motto Carmen lives by with her family.
A farm shop? A temporary restaurant with local cuisine? The Zischgs have another idea: one of the first farm cafés in South Tyrol. With taste and handiwork, Carmen turns the farm cellar and the inner courtyard into an oasis of well-being. She lovingly selects tables, chairs and armchairs for inside and outside. The furniture is not new, but it’s carefully chosen and loved. Every single piece has its own story. Georg's mother Martha adds lamps and statues that she creates in her studio at the Runstnerhof and the farm cafè is ready.
The guests are treated to a wonderful spread of homemade food: apple juices, syrups, biscuits, bread and croissants. Bacon, coppa or Kaminwurzen come from a local mountain farmer. Everything regional, much of it organic.
Stop by for a relaxing coffee, sit at a table reading a book or talk with the Zischg family. The Runstnerhof is a uniquely colourful spot in South Tyrol, a place where contentment meets tranquillity. A celebration of community and a love of diversity.