Lorenz Werth grows up growing apples and wine grapes. As a farmer, he is master of his time and free to make his own decisions. He helps a friend with the apple harvest and sees that organic farming works. Inspired by this, he converts his farm to organic.
Lorenz's son Simon attends the agricultural high school in Auer and joins the farm. Managing the farm together is not always easy. Father and son find the way in a clear division of labour. Simon concentrates on his own fruit growing, Lorenz on the vineyards, which they cultivate organically for farmers from the surrounding area. They help each other, the boss is the respective "specialist". Gala, Golden Delicious, Topaz and Bonita apples all ripen in the Werths' meadows. Thanks to the compact harvest period from August to September, there is time to work in the vineyards afterwards.
"Lack of experience is a hurdle, but not a road-block".
Simon is keen to grow another crop on the farm. He feverishly searches for a fruit that needs little plant protection. Together with a friend, he discovers Asimina triloba. The fruit comes from Kentucky in North America and has many names such as pawpaw, Indian banana or fruit of 1,000 flavours. In the Alpine region there is hardly any cultivation experience with this exotic fruit, but that doesn't stop Simon. Driven by the inner conviction that the Asimina will thrive in South Tyrol, he plunges into the adventure head first.
He orders them and establishes the first plant in 2013. Patiently, the organic farmer learns to grow and process Asimina. After four years, he harvests the first fruits and falls in love with the taste: mango, papaya and vanilla mingle in Asimina, which is rich in vitamins and iron. The Werths' apples are marketed by cooperatives of which the family is a member. The Asimina, on the other hand, is marketed by Simon himself. He supplies shops with fresh fruit and produces purees. These are further refined by local businesses. An ice cream parlour processes it into ice cream and a master brewer creates a beer from it.
Simon enjoys being an organic farmer and is happy to contribute to the further development of organic farming. In apple growing, he relies on resistant varieties as well as green overgrown and living soils.
Small tree spacing, slimmer trees with less foliage and more light in the orchard. Father and son rely on this cultivation method. As a result, the plants dry faster and the risk of fungal infections is reduced. Foresight is half the battle for organic farmers. Because there aren’t antidotes for all dilemmas. The less crop protection a plant needs, the better. This is true of resistant apple varieties such as Topaz, Bonita and Natyra®. The Werths have had Topaz and Bonita for some time, Natyra® is the next variety they will plant.
"Leave out what you don't need."
“What do my meadows really need, and what don't they?” Simon asks himself this question all the time. Do organic meadows in the sunny locations of South Tyrol need nets? "Yes," says Simon, "especially in the summit area, the sun cooks the apples and hailstorms are an annual danger."
Short mown tramlines between the apple trees are not always necessary for Simon. Grass and sown herbs grow in the tramlines of the apple meadows, which Simon mulches only twice a year - before thinning by hand in June then harvesting in autumn. The roots of the herbs loosen the soil, while the grass provides shade and protects the soil from drying out. When a meadow is newly planted on the farm, the Werths proceed prudently, they gently dig over the meadow and revitalise the soil with seeding and compost. In this way they protect against soil fatigue.
Organic farmers replace some chemical agents with mechanical tillage. For example, they work the soil under the apple trees with brushes instead of spraying against weeds. Simon drives through the meadows two or three times a year with the understock brush. The most sensible time to do this is in the morning, as Simon explains: "If I drive when it's dewy, the brushes wear less and therefore last longer."
The Werths have a clear idea not only about the mechanical work: "We don't pick the fastest, but constant and well-considered. Several picking passes are laborious, but that's how we complete the whole year's work." And it's precisely this willingness that keeps Simon going, because "diligence and a feeling for one's own orchards are what distinguish a farmer."