"The farm exists, you are there and done." Martin Huber sums up how he became a farmer. His father runs a tree nursery and gave him the chance to shape the farm at an early age. Martin quickly discovered the advantages of his profession: "I am out in the fresh air with a variety of tasks. Every season is different, sometimes every day. I make my own decisions and am only accountable to myself and my family."
"It's about making a decision and doing everything to make your idea come true."
And Martin uses his freedom. The young farmer is fresh out of school and interested in organic farming. All at the beginning of the 90s, when the first organic farmers in South Tyrol were not taken seriously. Unimpressed, Martin signed up for the organic conversion course of the organic association Bioland. "I was young, had the freedom to decide for myself and wanted to make a difference. For me, organic farming is how I imagine farming to be, and together we'll develop it further." Decades later, time has shown that organic was and is the right decision for Martin.
His commitment goes beyond his own meadows; he is involved in his cooperative Biosüdtirol. At fairs Martin tastes the organic apples and talks about apple growing in South Tyrol. With his stories he takes people into the meadows, and his projects also bring school children into the apple meadow. His wife Priska teaches at a secondary school and together they strengthen the young generations connection to agriculture. Every child plants an apple tree in Martin's meadow and is there to see it develop through the seasons. The pupils experience the cycle of nature first-hand and understand how organic farming works.
Organic farming replaces, among other things, synthetic chemical pesticides with natural products and mechanical processing. When the trees blossom, Martin drives through the rows with a thread machine. The threads of the machine twist in the blossom-wall of the apple trees and thins out the blossoms. As a result, the remaining fruits develop better later on. He works the soil under the trees with a bending machine and an understock brush, removing the weeds mechanically so there’s no need for any weed killer. Shortly before harvesting, he drives through the meadow with a defoliating machine for some varieties. This pneumatically shreds the leaves, which gives the apples more sunlight and a more intense colour during their last days on the tree.
Since the sandy soils of his home village Terlan are known for asparagus as well as apples and wine, Martin has been playing with the idea of planting organic asparagus since he took over the farm. The challenge is to harvest the asparagus in spring, when plant protection is most demanding for the apples. To ensure that the quality of the apples does not suffer as a result of his asparagus plans, he hires an employee all year-round. Martin plants the first asparagus and continuously expands the asparagus fields. For ten years he harvests asparagus with his team. After that, Martin makes a crop rotation and puts apple trees in the meadow again, and the soil thanks him.
"Appreciation comes from class and not from mass."
Martin relies on a colourful mix of apple varieties and harvests from August to the end of November: Gala, Evelina®, Topaz, Natyra®, Braeburn, Gold Rush, Fuji and Pink Lady®. Per hectare, the organic farmers harvest fewer kilos of apples than before the conversion to organic farming. For Martin, this is not only a disadvantage. He likes to cite the South Tyrolean wineries as an example, showing that quality comes before quantity. This insight makes sense to Martin. Thus, with Natyra®, he plants an apple variety that yields less but delivers a special taste experience; in the long run, this increases the appreciation for apples. Quality not quantity.