Hectic? Christoph Unterhofer eliminated that word from his vocabulary a long time ago. His focus lies on supporting nature prophylactically with as few, but nevertheless targeted, methods as possible – which means practising the virtues of patience and self-composure. He applies this minimalistic approach with his wife Rosi on their family farm, reyter. In fact, they’ve been farming strictly organic guidelines since 1996. That little word organic seems to hang like a protective blanket over their apple trees and grape vines. Like an invisible force from Mother Nature.
Working with prophylactic methods requires a vast amount of knowledge about the biology of pathogenic agents – and a really, really long time spent studying. This experience and his brimming, overflowing passion is clearly visible when Christoph talks about his fruit. His eyes shine, his hands start dancing and his voice brims with enthusiasm. What does he talk about? About the branches of his trees. To him, they are the key to everything. His magic bullet. His secret. Over the course of many winters he prunes the branches in line with his long-term vision, until the tree in question acquires the form he’s aiming for. His philosophy is simple: a relaxed and airy tree structure allows that life elixir light to reach even the lowest sections of the tree and gives young wood the chance to grow. It means that the lifespan of the trees extends along with their growth. And the rows of trees also receive more air than usual, so they don’t close up like hedgerows. Only a well-ventilated apple meadow dries quickly and thoroughly after rain, not giving fungal infections a chance to get a foothold. The result is that the organic farmer needs far fewer sprays or treatments as long as they rely on the laws of nature. Minimalism is the answer.
“We made a decision born of conviction to go with organic cultivation, we weren’t just jumping on a bandwagon.”
Christoph knows he needs to explore all avenues and do the hard work to reduce the need for treatment down the line. But what if a problem does occur? Then he listens to his own convictions, to the little voice inside that tells him, “That direction is the right one, you just have to find the right way to get there. The key point is that we made a decision born of conviction to go with organic cultivation, we weren’t just jumping on a bandwagon. That really helps us to keep on top of unexpected challenges.” Relaxed and self-composed. That’s how the Unterhofer family lives and works at the reyter farm.
Christoph and Rosi feel they are in safe hands with Biosüdtirol. “Our farms all have small structures. Each of us manages an average area of 3.4 hectares. It’s often the case that part-time growers, who manage significantly smaller areas, will ask their full-time colleagues in our cooperative for help with certain aspects of the work. We call that neighbourliness. Even if the neighbour’s meadow is an hour’s drive away,” chortles Christoph. One for all and all for one – the concept of the cooperative is alive and kicking.