2008: Young farmer Manfred switches the farm to organic, based on the feeling that something is missing. Shortly afterwards Manfred and his girlfriend Anna pack their bags. Not to get away forever, but to recharge their batteries on a trip to South America, before the change begins. A good decision, because the transition to organic is hard work. It helps that Manfreds parents Hedwig and Gustl support him. They don't question his decision for organic, because they are happy that their youngest child is continuing the family business.
“The most difficult thing for me? To meet my own demands.” Manfred Klotz
Manfred expects a lot from himself, at first not everything works out as he imagined it would. He takes courage from the meadow right next to his orchard. There he sees that it is possible to grow good quality organic apples in South Tyrol. "When you make organic, you try out a lot and try to constantly develop yourself, to learn with nature. A different way of farming is no longer an option for me," says Manfred. For some time now, apples and grapes have been growing magnificently in the organic farmer's meadows.
The peaks of work are well distributed, thanks to the two crops and different varieties. For example, plant protection starts in the vineyard when it’s already largely completed in the apple meadows. A small group of employees handles the various tasks. This makes it easier to implement the farmers philosophy, and at the same time take into account specific characteristics of individual varieties.
"Sometimes it is exhausting. From spring to autumn, the family has to wait more often," Manfred honestly admits. But he has more time for family during the winter months. In the quiet season, Saturday and Sunday belong entirely to Anna and the children, Alma, Linda and the youngest offspring Flora.
Winter is the only time of year when the weather is not very important to Manfred. His work as a farmer depends on the interaction of weather and vegetation. From the budding of the trees in March to the first small apples in May, cold spells are a constant danger to the buds. In summer and autumn hail threatens the harvest. Manfred watches how the weather becomes more and more extreme. Instead of warm, it is often red-hot, when it rains it pours buckets, and when the wind whistles, it blows hard.
“Can a net made of plastic be good for sustainability?” Manfred Klotz
In some situations, farmers can protect their apples and trees from extreme weather conditions. Nets can save the harvest from hail. These plastic nets last for at least 15 to 20 years, and also protect the apples from sunburn. But under the nets the microclimate changes: the slight shade makes it more humid, which increases the risk of fungal infections.
Manfred weighs up the pros and cons and shortly afterwards he mounted the first hail net. When he lays out new meadows in the next few years, they too will receive a hail net. Because for Manfred it is more sustainable to stretch a net over the apple trees for a few weeks than to cultivate the area all year round and then only harvest damaged apples.
In case of frost the farmers switch on the frost irrigation in some meadows, in others they light frost candles. In order to do everything at the right time, the farmers often exchange ideas. Old pioneers and new colleagues talk to each other about their experiences, and there are always several ways to achieve a goal. This open exchange and process is one reason why Manfred likes being an organic farmer.
In cultivation, Manfred increasingly relies on resistant apple varieties such as Story® Inored and Gold Rush. These need less pesticide and can be stored very well. Especially in May and June they taste wonderful. For tasty food, Manfred also works in his "free time". Together with two neighbours he cultivates a friend's field: They grow polenta, potatoes, wheat, onions and pumpkin for their own use. With the same philosophy as on his farm: calmly and organically, ready for the next generation.