Military service? Franz chooses development work instead, and comes to Ecuador to an area once farmed for bananas. The former plantation workers have remained self-sufficient and received government aid to grow cocoa. As they are used to cultivating bananas on a grand scale, some expect to be using pesticides, especially herbicides. But Franz relies on soil-covering legumes for weed suppression and strives to diversify the crops grown for self-sufficiency. Through this experience, Franz approaches the organic idea and understands that striving for independence is a trait of farmers' associations. Finally, he writes his dissertation on the peasant movement in Ecuador.
Two years later he returns to South Tyrol, finishes his sociology studies and works as a teacher at the newly founded secondary school for agriculture. Franz is also involved with organic farming outside of school. As an inspector, he visits the first South Tyrolean organic farms that have joined together to form the Association of Alternative Growers.
He recognises that products processed on the farm, which can be stored, give greater value to the farmers' labour and strengthens their market position. Inspired by this, Franz started fermenting cabbage and other vegetables, and soon after, he tried to bring the scent of Gravensteiner apples into a sparkling apple wine. A little later, his development work takes him and his wife Theolinde back to South America.
At the beginning of the nineties, he had the opportunity to work with an indigenous organisation in the Amazon Forest on a project for the sustainable management of the rainforest. The main aim is to preserve the diversity of the food crops grown and to reduce deforestation by strengthening soil fertility.
Two years later, in the rainforest, Franz is informed that his father wants to clear the old Gravenstein apple trees in South Tyrol. He returns to South Tyrol and persuades his father to lease him the apple meadow to farm organically. For Franz's father, as for most of his generation, chemistry in fruit growing was a liberation. Nevertheless, after the first year he already acknowledges that the organic Gravenstein apples look and taste good and allocates another piece of land for organic farming. Franz's commitment to organic farming goes beyond cultivation: he is involved in setting up the Bioland association for organic farming in South Tyrol and has been elected as its chairman for several years.
"It makes little sense to accompany a project for only two or three years. We stay until it runs without us, which takes ten years on average." - Franz
Over the years, Theolinde and Franz continue to support the project in Ecuador and mainly oversee the establishment of school gardens, where old knowledge about diversity is passed on to a new generation in a practical way.
Around the turn of the millennium, Franz and Theolinde are offered another development project: coffee cultivation and viticulture on Cape Verde. The two move there for a few months with their daughter Magdalena, while back home an organic farmer takes good care of their apples, and they’re back in time for the harvest.
The core of the project is the establishment of a winery. Within a few years, the initial seven suppliers become more than 100 winegrowers. For years, Theolinde and Franz and their daughter Magdalena travel to Cape Verde in June and July for the grape harvest and "cellaring". In 2007, it becomes a whole year again; Theolinde takes a sabbatical as a secondary school teacher and Magdalena attends school there. After a few years, the winery, which is co-financed by the EU, is listed among their best practice projects.
In 2010, Franz starts a student exchange with Cape Verde. Pupils from the agricultural high school in Auer spend two weeks on practical training in the Cape Verde Islands, refining cheese, working in the coffee plantation or producing jams, accompanied by the scholars from the local lyceum. The following year, they come to South Tyrol for three weeks and work on organic farms. This activity continues for several years and Franz has remained a point of reference for motivated young people from Fogo Island. Currently, Miguel from the wine village of Chã das Caldeiras lives on the Egger family farm and is doing a Master's Degree in oenology.
Franz has succeeded in creating an "organic island" on his own farm by combining areas and ecological measures: his orchards border on one side to a biotope, on two sides to a wide water ditch a mighty hedge closes off the meadow to their closest neighbour.
In their apple orchards, the Eggers plant the resistant varieties Topaz and Gold Rush to really reduce plant protection treatments during the "scab season". This also gives them a better quality of life, because they can sleep peacefully during the critical scab season in spring without fear of missing an infection period.
"The intersection between raw produce and processing is incredibly exciting for me." - Magdalena
A good product comes from good ingredients, the Eggers' philosophy is that simple. That is why they process part of the harvested apples directly on the farm to make the cider "Floribunda". The cider is a real family affair, Magdalena, Theolinde and Franz all pitch in.
Women in agriculture? There always have been, and for Magdalena it is clear that more and more women will also take up decision-making positions in agriculture. Then it will also be easier to get work shoes and clothing as well as work materials such as pruning shears in "women's sizes". However, these difficulties have not stopped Magdalena from entering agriculture.
She grew up in South Tyrol and Cape Verde in the middle of apple orchards and vineyards. As a teenager, she worked on organic farms at home and abroad and studied agriculture in Bolzano while helping out on her parents' farm. She is interested in the intersection between the raw material and the processing, does a Master's Degree in beverage technology in Giessen and Geissenheim and writes her Master's thesis on the influence of different yeast strains on cider. With this background, it's clear that Magdalena not only looks after the Instagram profile at Floribunda, but also gets involved in product development.
Together with her mother and father, she continues to develop the family's organic orchard. Resistent apple varieties ripen in the meadows. Bottle-fermented, naturally cloudy and unsulphured, the three bring as much apple as possible into the cider. Because as a farming family, one thing is close to their hearts: harvesting tasty fruit, processing some of it themselves and running the farm in a wholly determined, self-sufficient way.