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Community Supported Agriculture and steward-ownership of land @ Luzernenhof | Thomas Rippel

November 4, 2019

We are here at the farm Luzernenhof in the Markgräfler region south of Freiburg, in the midst of an intensive farming and wine growing region. We cultivate 32 hectares of land with vegetables, a wide variety of grains, 15 to 16 milk cows, their offspring, a few bulls and a few pigs. We have our own dairy on the farm and process our milk into a wide variety of products and distribute all produce to our members via the system of community supported agriculture. Our farm is located in the center of the village, so it was quite difficult in the beginning to let the cows go out to graze. By now we have managed to set up a pasture. During the summer, the cows stay on the pasture day and night and we also milk them on the pasture. During the summer they only eat fresh grass. In the winter we only feed them with hay and grass silage. No grains, soy or corn or any other additional feed. It is quite possible that we are the last farm in this region which feeds its cows in this fashion. All other farms have intensified their rations to produce more milk. I am a vegetable grower here on the farm. We cultivate more than 100 different vegetable and grain varieties – none of them hybrid seed varieties. That means that we dont support seed conglomerates. We grow an incredible variety of vegetables even in winter time. We can supply a wide variety all year round. What is also very special is, that we do not buy any fertiliser. We only use fertiliser (dung) from our own farm and grow clay-grass in our crop rotation. That allows for beautiful vegetable harvests. And we only harvest exactly what has been ordered. I think that is important to mention, because this way we do not produce any waste. We primarily produce vegetables, grains and milk products. We have vegetables all year round. Even in winter time we have fresh salads. We cultivate a wide variety, which encompasses all the vegetables that you might find in a supermarket and on top of that a bunch of specialties. Out of principle, we only cultivate non-hybrid varieties.
We also produce a wide variety of grains: barley, rye, wheat, spelt, oat, einkorn, emmer. We produce all of that for human consumption. We also have a wide variety of milk products – starting with unprocessed raw milk, which has sadly also become very rare. We also produce yoghurt, quark, cream cheese, camambert, medium aged cheese, hard cheese and more. All of them in several flavour varieties. Then of course we also have the meat from the animals – we butcher about once a month – and some honey and apple juice. Thats about the the assortment that the farm can produce out of this cycle. The foundation of Luzernenhof is a healthy soil. In order to keep the soil fertile, we need a healthy cycle of nutrients and crops – this cycle allows for healthy plants to grow: vegetables and grains, but also to feed cows and lastly also pigs. This means, that in order to produce healthy plants, to produce healthy vegetables, the soil needs enough time to rest. We allow the soil to rest by growing clay-grass in the crop rotation, which the cows eat. And the cows give us their milk, which we turn into milk products: cheese, quark, cream cheese… out of that we have a lot of whey left over, which we humans do not consume in those amounts. In order to also make use of that, we keep pigs and feed it to them. So to be clear: we primarily produce vegetables and grains for humans consumption. The animal protein is only produced out of the waste products, which come about in the process of producing vegetables and grains. In the morning, we milk the cows right next door. The milk is then pumped over here, where we produce more than 20 different kinds of milk products. We pasteurise the milk and then add the bacterial culture and renet and then the milk coagulates and turns into jelly. I cut the jelly and then fill it into forms. The hard cheeses are then pressed. And lastly the cheese ripens here in the cheese cellar. What i think is really great, is that an hour or two after the cows are milked i can come and get raw milk and fill it into my little container myself. This kind of raw milk is not comparable in quality to anything you can buy in a bottle. BLING! Alright, if you want to become a member at Luzernenhof, then you have three months time to do a trial membership. If you are interested in the farm, then you will have a guide a member with experience, who will be there for you for the first three months to answer your questions, to help you order and even come with you to pick up your produce with you – of course only in so far as you welcome that. They are here for you to feel welcome and you get in the groove. So you don’t feel lost in the individual ordering process And have a good start at Luzernenhof. When you become a member at Luzernenhof, it means that you can place an individualised order on the internet every week and every Thrusday you can pick up the produce. You can pick them up here at the farm – which is of course the most beautiful place to pick it up, with the animals and all the hustle and bustle – but there are many pick-up points in Freiburg and the towns around the farm. You don’t receive any additional invoices for the produce you order. The cost of the produce is covered by the share that you take in the community, which covers the budget of the farm. So you can freely choose the produce you like every week and dont have to worry about taking more of less. But the monthly fee you pay remains constant, amounting to about 140 Euros per household per month. Whats really at the heat of this community supported agriculture are the members, who dont buy one specific product at a specific price, rather, they essentially buy the entire farm. When it gets to the point that people say “Luzernenhof is my farm. I am a part of it”, Then this idea really comes to flourish. When we have about 180 households paying 140 Euros per months, then we generate enough revenue that the farm can cover all its expenses. Long term, the farm, the project is only secure if the land has been secured by the community, by the Kulturland cooperative. We, the Kulturland cooperative are a community of organic farmers and citizens who have the mission to protect agricultural land from financial speculators. Together we buy agricultural land and lease it out to organic producers long term for a very low price. Thus we make sure that the soil is really well taken care of. And allow cultivation in harmony with nature, as opposed to monoculture corn production or biogas cultivation, exploiting the soil to maximise financial returns. Rather, a diverse and considerate cultivation of produce: vegetables, grains and animals and so on, so that it fits together in a harmonious picture. We see ourselves as practical idealists. We choose the machines that we use with careful consideration. We do not always need the newest machines. What’s important is that they fulfil their function. What we really care about is that the machines are not too heavy, so the soil is not compacted. The kind of agriculture that is being practiced now is really a specialisation to produce one product to maximum efficiency and at minimum cost. Many painful compromises had to be made to get to this point, painful also for the farmers. Back in the days, all farmers here had cows, all of them grew potatoes, grew grains, that they would consume at home. They all had to abandon this kind of diverse production pice by pice. Because of the community supported agriculture, we are once again able to place a diverse cultivation into the enter of our farm. And out of this diversity we are able to have a closed cycle, which is what a farm needs in order for it to be sustainable and to keep the soil healthy. We need this diversity and the support of a community, in order to be honest and caring towards animals and for the farm to be truly sustainable. We want a different kind of agriculture. We want to move away industrial agriculture. We want our animals to be healthy. We want the soil to be healthy. We don’t want to fertilise and spray herbicides and pesticides. I joined the farm, because I was looking for a place where my bees can be healthy. And a community where we can tackle all of this together. We could never have come up with all the money to pay for this farm and its land. And we could never earn enough money from farming to buy the land piece by piece. It would take us 70 years before we would earn even one Euro from this land. You should know this.
We need money from outsiders – ideally from many many different people who feel connected to the farm – in order for this kind of farm to be able to exist. Unlike most farms, this farm was not inherited. And in the future, many farms will not be inherited, because there will be no heirs who want to take over the family farm. Rather, we will see more and more people who are not necessarily born into farming, but rather people who practice farming out of a deep passion, who are looking for farms. But they don’t have money. They need the money to pay for the farm. I and for the other people here, we dont care about owning the farm. We care about being able to do the work we are passionate about here on the farm. Not owning it. We have been on the farm since 2012. Originally we leased the farm. Surprisingly, the owner decided that she wants to sell the farm. Now, we need your investment via the Kulturland cooperative to secure the farm and to secure the land for the future. You can join the cooperative by buying a share for 500 Euros. But you can also invest more, so that we can buy more land, piece by piece and make sure that it is secured for sustainable cultivation. To allow people who care for the land look after it. Just like Luzernenhof, we have many more farms in Germany: Hof Gasswies Heggelbach Hof, Stedebach, Hof Berg, Verliessmoor, Hof Basta… all of them cultivating the land in their way, the way they know how to really take care of it. They produce for the people in their region, each farm retaining its character and independence. Giving each farm room to blossom. What a huge difference to monoculture production where the soil degrades. We create fertility, a fertile soil. That’s the beauty of Kulturland Genossenschaft – of us as a community: we can take money, which is in a way something dead, and convert it into fertile, living, fragrant soil. Participate in our Crowd-Invest Campaign and become a member of Luzernenhof.

1 Comment

  • Reply Greta finz December 27, 2017 at 2:47 am

    Great concept and a much more sustainable model for farming. Better than a high-debt viscous cycle of hybrids, commercial fertilizers and soil depletion.  And…Awesome drone photography!

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