The story of South Tyrol’s headstrong farmers.
Hot days. Cool nights. The Mediterranean climate and the edged mountains of the Alps. They have made South Tyrol the apple orchard of Europe for decades. The fathers of our grandfathers already knew this. With shorter tree distances, special pruning techniques and irrigation systems, our fathers made the apple orchards more productive. And more productive, and even more productive. To the point where every year the temptation for a record harvest was so strong that we were using fertilisers and chemicals unknown to nature. Thankfully, before things went too far, we had a moment of realisation.
Because in our eyes, nature, the basis of all of our lives, was out of balance. The cycle was broken, soil fertility dropped. Eventually, the first among us couldn’t take it any longer, so we stood up to make the change happen. In our daily work we noticed how far away we were from what we actually wanted. Of course, we need some help, organic apple farms don’t run themselves. So, we understand the benefits of hail nets, sprayers (today all ‘perfectly in tune with nature’) and tractors, to help us grow and harvest first-class apples. But we also want to hear birds singing, bees buzzing and our children laughing. And all this in our meadows.
So, in 1990 we decided to grow apples purely organically from now on, six of us gathered around a wooden table in the living room of a farm. No ifs, ands, or buts. Critics said to us: "You can do it, but the apples don't look nice and they don't taste good." Or: "You can't do that, it will never work! You are insulting the honour of our families." That's what gnawed at us. But stubborn as we are, we didn't let anything get in the way. From year to year we learned to deal with nature better, and more like-minded people joined the organic apple farmers.
Biosüdtirol. This is us. 250 organic farmers and their families. Our farms are generally smaller than five football fields, tiny by modern standards. But this gives us time to farm our apples organically.
At the turn of the millennium six families had become over 100, ten years later 150. And today? Now we are 250, as steadfastly determined as on the first day, and our community is growing: in ten years we will be 400. There are various reasons for switching to organic farming: young farmers take over the business, the neighbour’s organic apples are convincing, it pays off economically, or there is a growing family. Because we believe that kids only stand to benefit from a life started on organic apples.
When we come back from the apple orchards after a rainy day, take off our muddy boots and soaking wet clothes we know: organic apple farming works and it feels good.
Biosüdtirol. Our organic apple grower cooperative.
250 organic farmers, together are stronger than one. Only together can we afford the background support for every professionally farmed, harvested, stored, processed, packaged, marketed and distributed organic apple. In our cooperative, each farmer has an equal say. No matter how many hectares they manage. Ecology and democracy sit well together in the same apple cart!
VOG. Our umbrella organisation.
From the very start, cooperation has been our greatest guiding principle. We joined the Verband der Südtiroler Obstgenossenschaften (VOG/Association of South Tyrolean Fruit Growers’ Cooperatives) in our first year. VOG has since become the biggest marketing organisation for apples in Europe. Our umbrella organisation now unites approximately 5000 producers, who manage nearly 11,000 hectares of cultivated land and produce 600,000 tonnes of high quality fruit every year. No doubt including the apples you’re soon to eat.