Steep slopes, small farms, traditional food. These few words characterize the ENAJ-Low Budget Trip that the Austrian guild VAÖ organised in September for its colleagues in the mountainous area of Tyrol.
“We aimed to show how difficult it is to run a farm under such difficult conditions. On the other hand we wanted to proof, that agriculture in less favoured areas in the Alps is indispensable to keep the landscape open and the valleys alive“, says co-organizer Stefan Nimmervoll.
“Tyrol lives off tourism. Even if the farmers do not earn much from their products, we need to find ways to keep them satisfied.“
Great sense of tradition
The group of 20 journalists met proud people, who run their land as part time farmers. They have a great sense of tradition and don´t just work for money but for prolonging centuries of family history. Many of the farms are so small that they just have a few cows, that spend their summers high up in the Alpine meadows. For many colleagues – especially from countries with high productive regions – this experience was an eye-opener. As Stefan Nimmervoll says, “One of the goals of our partners was to show why so much CAP-money has to be spent in less favoured areas and what the effects of cuts of these subsidies would be.”
One of the most impressive experiences was the production of hay milk, where cows are just fed with hay and fresh grass to get a special quality for the production of traditional mountain cheeses. The group visited a small dairy in the Zillertal Valley and met a farmers family on their home farm and up at their „Alm“ (a meadow high in the Alps).
The owner of the ‘Lindner’ tractor factory, David Linder, explained how his company meets the needs of Alpine Farmers. A cheese producer near Kufstein told about the transition of his small farm into a successful dairy. Finally the journalists went to the famous town of Kitzbühel, where the most important skiing race of the world (the Hahnenkammrennen on Streif) takes places every winter. Farmer and restaurant owner Thomas Stelzhammer told journalists about the chances and disadvantages of luxury tourism in a region, where factors such as land prices mean that farmers cannot afford to farm any more. Florian Schipflinger of Arche Austria presented the system of protecting rare animal breeds and the importance of that programme for small farms.
The guests of the Austrian guild were not only impressed by the information and visits, but also by the typical Tyrolian food. “I just ate the best beef I ever had,” said Northern Irish journalist Chris McCullough.
VAÖ wants to thank all its sponsors that made it possible to offer the trip at a reasonable price.