Karin Spitaler teaches natural science at an upper school in Bozen. As a ‘farmer-on-the-side’, she has both a theoretical and a practical knowledge of nature - every day and right up close. She has been following her calling as a farmer since she took over the family land and cultivated, first, grapes and apples - although now she has gone over entirely to apples. In the early 2000s, Karin put her principles into practice and switched to organic, the first to do so in the farmers’ association to which she then belonged. These days she’s no longer alone in this - she always was a pioneer and a trailblazer.

Once her hours of lessons are complete, she finds her roles as a wife and a mother to three children keep her feet on the ground. While the children spend their free time whizzing around on wheels or chasing footballs, Karin and her husband relax in their fruit orchards. Far from the hustle and bustle of the working day and close to Mother Nature.

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Combining two jobs and a family is sometimes a daunting challenge. Karin has her own particular strategy, to ensure she can work in the orchards in good weather as much as possible she selected her apple varieties to work with the school year. She starts her harvest in early August with Gala and completes it in September with Topaz. Timing is everything.

In order to create a beneficial micro-climate and a healthy predator/prey balance for useful organisms, Karin doesn’t use hail nets. “I understand that a full-time farmer likes the harvest security that hail nets bring. At the end of the day, they increase the potential for a good harvest. Even so, I allow myself and nature the luxury of not having the nets,” she says of her close-to-nature philosophy. Her orchards lie in a location that is particularly propitious for the weather, thus making her decision that little bit easier. At first, she took the risk, but for the last ten years she does take some precautions against frost and hail. Not least, because the weather in the area can be uniquely unpredictable.

"I allow myself and nature the luxury of not having the nets.”

Her husband, Georg, whose main job is in a bank, is always at Karin’s side, in life as in the orchard. They have invested in small, but practical pieces of equipment like an electric lifting platform. It’s a multifunctional assistant that is employed in a variety of tasks during the year, when pruning the trees, hanging up dispensers, during the thinning process (done by hand) and during the harvest.

Her two sons – at 13 and 15 years old in the prime of their teenage years – support her wholeheartedly. That is to say, as long as the call of the bicycle or the football pitch isn’t stronger. Her 8 year old daughter is currently her moral support in all life situations. And the battery-powered radio is almost a family member in its own right. It has only one frequency. “True-to-life reporting and critical news expand your horizons,” says Karin. In the orchards as well. And preferably under sunny skies.

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