Klaus Demattio starts high school at exactly the right time, the agricultural high school in Auer opened just one year before. After school, Klaus gains experience on the farm, as a practical teacher at his former high school and at the Laimburg experimental centre. For two years he deals with thinning apple trees, pruning and new cultivation methods.
These basics give Klaus a multi-layered view of agriculture. He gathers strength on his South American travels. Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil: the view beyond the horizon does him good and awakens his desire to change things at home.
"A lot of things are easier when you're relaxed, because not everything in life and nature can be planned.”
Driven by a desire to do things differently in agriculture, Klaus starts with organic farming. He identifies with a method where the focus is less on increasing quantity and more on nature. One of his neighbours is organic farmer Markus Pedrotti. Klaus sees that organic farming works and asks about commercialisation. For Klaus, good marketing of the apples is key for making the switch to organic.
This is how Klaus comes to Biosüdtirol. The cooperative is 100% owned by the organic farmers and stores, packs and sells the organic apples all year round. "Organic is a sustainable way forward." With this conviction, Klaus converts his farm to organic. The conversion is difficult, but he rarely gets nervous. Calm and matter-of-fact, if needed he simply calls his neighbour Markus and asks for advice. "A relaxed organic farmer has it easier, in nature not everything can be planned."
Klaus plants hedges of willow and hazelnut bushes at the borders to non-organically managed meadows. He also plants shrubs in front of some rows, as protection for the apple trees and shelter for friendly insects. Moreover, he keeps the orchards airy so that the trees dry out quickly. This way he gets to know the soils of his meadows better. Sandy as they are, they have the disadvantage that young trees grow more slowly. On the other hand, the mature trees stay in balance more easily. After clearing a meadow, he allows himself the luxury of leaving it fallow for a year. He builds up the soil by seeding it, and the following year he plants the apple trees. Because the treasures of an organic farmer are the soil and the helpful insects in the meadows.
"For me, the future of agriculture lies in the courage to leave things out, in inter-farm cooperation and the simple joy of being a farmer.
Klaus' goal is to work with even fewer plant protection treatments. He doesn’t use fertiliser applied to the leaves of the trees, or anywhere else, apart from compost, which he creates with his neighbour.
For Klaus, inter-farm cooperation is not only the solution for composting. For him, it is also the key to structured greening across farm boundaries. "It’s about sensible ecological measures, and not about planting two hedges that look nice".
In addition to structured eco niches, Klaus sees resistant varieties as a way to reduce treatments. He finds a 50% share of resistant apple varieties suitable for his farm. Today, Gold Rush, RedPop® and Story® Inored are among them, and soon Natyra® will be added. Klaus has high hopes for Gold Rush in particular. "With its fine mix of sweetness and acidity and its strong yellow, it stands out in the range of resistant varieties."
Offering young people the opportunity to carry the torch is fundamental in farming. This requires positivity and making room for development. The farmer's freedom must not negatively influence organic guidelines, but neither must the farmer be forced to do things like keep animals for example. "I like keeping chickens, but if my son wouldn't want to, he should be free to concentrate on the fruit. Otherwise, neither he nor the animals would be happy. And if the point of this is closing loops to make stronger connections, there is an excellent compromise: inter-farm cooperation between fruit and livestock farmers."
And so the circle closes, because inter-farm cooperation and the community are also at the heart of the Biosüdtirol cooperative. Here Klaus meets old friends like Franz Egger, who was already experimenting with organic when Klaus was at school. "The openness for organic from some of the teachers has subconsciously shaped me to this day. It's nice that there is an organic block at school today." Meanwhile, Klaus is a point of reference for farmers converting to organic. "I have benefited from other organic farmers, still exchange ideas with them today and like to pass on my experiences. Together we make the best progress."