"The motivation with Obstraupe
is just different."
Waldbothgut, Huber family
Linz, Upper Austria
– Family farm
– Rounded meadow orchard
– around 80 apple and pear trees
- additional plums and cherry trees
– Own processing into juice, cider and spirits
– Self-sufficiency and hospitality of guests
– Sale of surplus to regional juice producers
How adapted technology makes the orchard harvest easier
and can get the boys excited about fruit.
The Huber family came across the fruit caterpillar at the "Day of Old Fruit Varieties" in Gutau / Mühlviertel. Until then, the family had mostly collected the fruits of their approximately 80 apple and pear trees from the ground by hand. The Hubers gained experience with harvesting technology with a "roller basket", which was abandoned again because it did not optimally meet their requirements. Curious about the principle of gentle and efficient fruit harvesting, the family ordered a "Black Beast" fruit tree for the 2018 fruit season and put it through its paces during the rich fruit year. We visited the family farm on a September morning in 2018 and asked the farmer about his experiences.
The Waldbothgut on the outskirts of Linz, near St.Florian in Upper Austria, lies in a rural idyll and is run by the couple Franz and Karin Huber. The family has recognized the potential of the quiet location and the traditional square courtyard building des Waldbothgut and offers - surrounded by fields, meadows and forests - holidays on the farm for those seeking relaxation. But the farm also offers well-travelled tourists, such as an elderly Japanese couple who were late at night looking for accommodation, a welcome, authentic place to stay, like us farmer and host Franz Huber told of our arrival.
The orchard at the back of the farm, to which the farmer leads us, is similarly traditional, dignified and idyllic. Apple, pear, plum and cherry trees of different sizes and different ages, embedded in lush greenery, let us marvel at the scenic beauty of a meadow orchard on a sunny September morning._cc781905-5cde-3194 -bb3b-136bad5cf58d_
When we ask about the fruit picking workflow, our host suggests a demonstration. He drives backwards onto the field with a tractor and tailgate. As is usual with meadow orchards, the distances between the individual trees are large enough so that the rear drawer can easily be set up as a mobile collection and sorting station at various places in the orchard. As soon as this has been positioned, farmer Huber sets up the sorting table. In the case of the family, this is “homemade” and is made up of a ready-made grille from the hardware store and a wooden frame construction with two uprights. In addition, the sorting grate can be adjusted in height by adjusting the legs, allowing people of different heights to work comfortably.
"Wia ma best'n guides the gets me in the mood."
Now the fruit caterpillar is used, which had been stored in the yard, protected from the rain, and which had obviously been in operation for a short time. As we can see, Praktiker Huber supplemented our invention with an improvised protective cover to protect the cordless screwdriver from dirt splashing up. We hadn't thought of this detail yet - but it seems to us to be a useful addition. The farmer's driving style, who skilfully moves the pick-up device back and forth, shows the routine that has already set in after a rich harvest. "The best way to drive is to get into the right place," asserts Franz Huber. He did most of the picking up with the machine himself, while his wife and children did the sorting work. In his experience, the collection works particularly well with short-mown grass, although the machine also copes well with longer grass, adds the farmer. In his experience, the first mowing around the trees should be done by mid-August at the latest. The cuttings should then also be transported away from the area. The turf under the trees should still be strong so that the fruit falls softly. He refers here to the extremely dry year 2018, which also affected the turf on the Waldbothgut somewhat.
In the meantime, the fruit caterpillar's box is full. This is now placed to the rear and the fruit is emptied from the crate onto the nearby sorting table. During the sorting process, the beautiful, intact fruit goes down into the rear drawer, while rotten and unusable fruit and fallen leaves are thrown into the meadow under the sorting table. The work is supported by a slight inclination of the sorting table, which allows the fruit to roll by itself.
"I think that you with da Hand klaubts,
that's why i stayed inside n. If i g'wusst had,
that you with that Obstraup'n klaubts, wa i eh kuma."
When we asked what had changed for the family when harvesting the fruit stalks, the farmer replies that the work process itself has remained quite similar. In his experience, working with the device is nicer overall. In comparison to manual harvesting, he emphasizes the cross-friendly way of working, which he clearly felt after this season. He added that even with manual picking, if everyone helps together, the family can manage very large volumes. However, the motivation to pick is significantly greater with the device in order to do the otherwise very strenuous work. All generations agree on that. After initial skepticism about the device , the senior farmer was amazed at how well the device worked. In addition, the boys are much more motivated to harvest the fruit stalks. Mr Huber tells us an anecdote about this:
The whole family was Obstklauben, only his son didn't come. He wonders where he is and finally goes looking for him. When he finds him, he replies: "I think you're hand-picking - that's where I stayed. If I'd known that you'd be picking fruit with them, I'd be fine".
Franz Huber also knows from various colleagues that the need to motivate the young to harvest is becoming increasingly important, and they often have a similar experience with the young. We are happy about the compliment to the fruit caterpillar from the boys. If they are the ones who will have to harvest and process the fruit in the future, a sustainable orchard culture should be cultivated.
"At 6-7 cents, I don't pick up anything anymore -
do is ois z'spät - a mit da Obstraupe."
After the harvest demonstration, we ask the farmer about the processing of his fruit. Most of the fruit is processed at the Waldbothgut itself into juice, cider and spirits. The products are used for their own family as well as for entertaining guests. For them, the products from their own production are of course an important part of the "holiday-at-the-farm-experience". Surpluses from the harvest are sold to a regional juice producer, who pays reasonable prices for the goods. 13 cents/kg for pears and 18 cents/kg for apples in 2018 compared to the usual 6-7 cents/kg.
"At 6-7 cents, I don't grab anything anymore - it's all too late - with a fruit raspberry", Franz Huber finds clear words for the low prices that are common in the industry and we can only nod in agreement. Finally, this description of the farmer clearly shows us that, in addition to working aids during the harvest, other aspects such as the market price will have a significant impact on the future of orchard cultivation.
After the friendly reception at the Waldbothgut and the impressive demonstration of both the orchard and the fruit harvest, we thank the Huber family and set off towards our next destination.