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Organic farm Menzl

Hölkering, Bayern


– Organic farm as a sideline

– Innovative agroforestry system

– Old fruit varieties and special crops

– Own processing

– farm shop

How an experimental farmer in Bavaria combines arable and orchard culture on an agroforestry system. 

The meeting of the fruit caterpillar with the innovative agroforestry system by Martin Menzl can really be described as a meeting of eccentrics. As a part-time job, the trained electrician runs an organic farm with an attached farm shop near Regensburg in Bavaria. The resourceful farmer combines fruit trees of old varieties, planted in rows, with the cultivation of arable crops or special crops, which he cultivates between the rows of trees, on a still young, approximately 3.5 ha large area. With this cultivation method, which has not been widely used up to now, but which has many advantages, the part-time farmer is reacting to an increasingly difficult situation - also in the organic sector - being able to sell field crops in smaller quantities in an economically viable way. He consciously counters this trend with a variety of products, both from fruit trees (table fruit, juices) and from special crops (e.g. colorful potatoes). The facility houses around 30 different types of fruit, as well as old varieties of potatoes and other special crops. This combination system should last for at least 10 years, until the fruit trees have reached an appropriate size and remain solely on the site. In addition to the high productivity that such agroforestry systems have, the owner draws particular attention to the positive natural interactions between fruit trees and field crops, which are clearly evident, for example, in the case of pest infestation by Colorado potato beetles.

How do you get the mass of fruit away from the field,

without having to bend down all the time?

So far so good. However, harvesting the fruit requires flexible harvesting options between the field crops, in which  large quantities of fruit are to be picked up gently at the same time - and this is exactly where the fruit caterpillar comes into play - which the farmers can use thanks to the simple and robust technology has fascinated. The initial question for Martin Menzl was: "How do you remove the mass of fruit from the field without having to keep bending down?". The farmer would have had problems with larger machines anyway, since a high level of maneuverability is required on the narrow strips of fruit trees. This year he was only able to use the device to a very limited extent, since the still very small quantities of fruit in the plantation quickly rotted on the ground and most of it was ultimately picked. Nevertheless, he is convinced of the technology and is confident that the fruit caterpillar will serve well on his system in the years to come. The innovative farmer plans to harvest the fruit himself using many small boxes the size of the fruit-grain collection containers. To be on the safe side, he has already bought 25 boxes for 2018, which he believes have the advantage that the fruit is kept clean in them, giving him a good overview. As soon as the trees have a corresponding yield potential, he plans to increase his contingent to around 100 boxes. For future improvements to the Obstraupe, Martin Menzl therefore suggests the possibility of being able to carry several empty collection containers with the device . This could save additional paths and further improve the workflow.

When the trees are in full yield, they  should be responsible for about 50% of the organic farm's income.

At the moment, the agroforestry facility in Hölkering is still growing and developing. At some point, however, when the trees are in full yield, they  should be responsible for about 50% of the income of the organic farm and thus make a substantial contribution to the farm's profitability, according to Menzl. Some of the fruit is picked as tableware and sold through our own farm shop  and other organic shops, while the rest is processed as juice. When harvesting larger quantities, partners are then sought who are able to purchase larger quantities of organic orchards for processing.

With the planting of old fruit varieties, supported by the landscape conservation association, the facility contributes to the preservation of valuable genetic resources and to nature conservation. In addition, the fruits in raw and processed form offer the customers of the organic farm a special experience through the taste and appearance of the diverse fruit. When selecting the varieties, which were planted on seedling rootstock, the farmer primarily paid attention to the suitability of the respective variety for the location. Perches for birds of prey and piles of stones for additional "land robbers" support the organic farmer in naturally regulating voles in the facility. "Birds of prey are actually always there," Menzl is convinced of the effectiveness of the perches. 

After inspecting the plant, we make a short detour and look at the farm shop and the processing room in which the fruit is professionally processed in a small space, from the press to a pasteurization system to filling in "bag-in-boxes".

At the end of the day, Martin Menzl's concept of the agroforestry system convinced us across the board. We say goodbye to the innovative farmer and look forward to many new ideas that we take home with us from this visit.

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