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Discover south tyrol
The pleasure of tasting
Holidays in the South Tyrolean farmsteads
Oliver Peña Luque
Basile De Wulf
A chat with our farmers
In conversation with Ernst Hofer
After months of hard work,
it is now the busiest time of year for us farmers: the harvest
. The most important thing is the people, because
apples are individually picked by hand
. The start of the harvest depends on the variety, weather and temperatures. Our main goal is to obtain a high-quality product.
I will now explain everything we have to do to achieve this.
My name is
and I come from
, a municipality
. My farm has been handed down from generation to generation. I inherited it from my father and was practically born into it, coming into contact with the agricultural world from an early age. Those were different times when we had a bit of everything: apples, wine and livestock. My father, who had personally experienced war and hunger, was very attached to it. I, on the other hand, was a young smart aleck and
wanted to do everything differently
While attending agricultural college I discovered
my passion for orchards
and learned many new things that I wanted to start doing at home. At that time we still had such tall apple trees that we had to use long, bulky wooden ladders for harvesting. It was exhausting work! I wanted to focus on
new and innovative varieties
, which my father was not initially enthusiastic about. In the end, however, my success convinced him. Towards the end of the ’70s we stopped raising cattle and concentrated on full-time apple production.
What do I love about my job? That
is different and
poses new challenges
. I am also my own boss and I make the decisions. My greatest satisfaction is holding the fruits of my labour in my hands and knowing that
they are top-quality apples
Apple harvesting is
, not least from a logistical standpoint. Although every member of the family helps out, we still need extra helpers to harvest the apples at the optimum time. I have to plan and organise everything to perfection: we can easily harvest as much as 600 to 700 tonnes! Timing is also a must.
The ideal period is only two to three weeks maximum for each variety
and changes from year to year.
To avoid the harvest being concentrated in the same period, I grow ten different varieties:
in mid-August we start with Gala and then in September Kanzi
, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith. And finally the late varieties: Braeburn, Fuji, Morgenduft, Pink Lady
and now Joya
. At present we do not cultivate any other varieties, but never say never.
Four hands are better than two
, as they say. At the start of the harvest I employ four helpers and then up to nine towards the end of October, when the work increases. In addition to the harvest itself, I also have to accommodate them and make sure that everything goes well. For example, it’s a big problem if the car doesn’t work!
As a farmer I get up early in the morning and often go to bed late at night because I am ultimately responsible for a trouble-free harvest. My son also gives me a real hand in this. We start at 7 am. In August we take a longer lunch break because of the heat, while in November, when it is cold or still dark, we start later in the morning,
hoping that the weather is on our side
! If this is not the case, we sometimes have to roll up our sleeves at the weekend.
In the past, when we had even taller trees, we had to climb up
and from a fairly high and ventilated spot we picked one apple at a time, putting them in a
Since I started planting smaller trees, shorter ladders are sufficient, but even in this respect great progress has been made.
Today we work with a
. It is a
machine with a height-adjustable platform
: two workers stand on top and two below and the apples go from the tree directly to the box. This facilitates our work, while also
preserving the quality of the fruit
. We usually do several runs, only picking ripe apples each time. When I take the tractor to the cooperative with the full bins I feel really proud and satisfied. After all, the harvest is the result of an entire year’s work.
A WORD WITH OUR FARMERS
Hardly anyone knows as much about the cultivation of apples as our farmers. We met our experts for a short chat.
Discover south tyrol
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