After completing agricultural college, Toni was faced with a choice - to go into the lecture hall or into the fruit meadow, university or parental farm. He let his heart speak and consulted his gut. Toni, the youngest of four siblings, took over his father’s farm and switched to organic farming in 2006. The reason was his desire to do something different, forging a new path: farming without synthetic chemical plant protection. Since then, organic farming has made great strides, and a great deal has changed on Toni’s farm as well.
Toni faces all of the challenges of the meadows together with his father Hansjörg and his two employees Verena and Ali: in his own meadows as well as the apple meadows of organic farming colleagues, who outsource some of the work – from plant protection and tree pruning to mulching. Over the next few years, Toni will continue on the path he has forged where apple varieties are concerned. He recently planted scab-resistant Topaz and Bonita varieties, which require less plant protection. More varieties with these characteristics will be joining them soon.
Composition. That’s what concerns Toni. On the one hand of course for himself and his family, but on the other also for wider society. “For humans and nature, farming and countryside management is the basis for all types of economy. And that’s why we need to manage it together and not as each working for his own.” He’s been living by this conviction for years as a member of the governing board of the Biosüdtirol cooperative and, since 2017, as the chairperson of the association Bioland Südtirol. With clear ideas, a smile on his face and open ears, the young organic farmer enthuses his audience.
“Diversity stimulates creativity, monotony dulls the spirit.”
Roots are to trees what family is to Toni. His wife Edith and their three children Theresa, Johann and Pauline are his pillar of strength and his source of energy. His determination is reflected in his children when they collect him to go and play. And when there’s time between working as a parish assistant, as a mother and farmer, Edith channels her creativity into the home and kitchen.
If you have ever had the opportunity to enjoy Edith’s apple roses in puff pastry, you will understand Toni’s love of diversity. This is clearly evident in the many different varieties of apples that he grows on his farm: Gala, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Topaz, Bonita and Pink Lady®. In addition to that, there is a line in wine, a vibrant vegetable field, a full chicken run and a handful of pigs.
“We’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us on the issue of appreciation. Because we don’t always value food the way it deserves.”
Vegetables are served up at the table at home and are available to purchase every week at the organic farmers’ market in Bozen and Neumarkt. The chickens live happily on the farm, through the whole year, as do the pigs during the warmer months. They feed on leftovers from the vegetable fields, among other things, in the winter they become ham, salamis and sausages. It’s a natural cycle that works perfectly with organic farming.
Fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs. The Rieglers do not just cook fresh delicacies for their own - a large proportion of the food is also grown there. And Edith’s father is a beekeeper, so even the honey comes from family-owned hives. Toni is passionate that food should be valued and appreciated. After all, it forms the basis of human existence.
“We don’t always value the products of farming in the way they deserve. Frequently, appreciation is simply lacking,” Toni suggests. At the organic farmers’ market, in his role as a Bioland chairperson and in his everyday life, Toni is a tireless ambassador for food appreciation. Yet, he doesn’t want to preach “organic” at people or force it onto them. He has far too much love and respect for personal freedom for that. He used it himself when he stepped into new farming territories himself and he’s a passionate defender of that right for everyone. Particularly in their choice of farming.
But his deep inner joy is clear in his eyes, especially when he is able to carry someone along with his enthusiasm, to persuade them of the value of their food and to help them choose organic.