ENAJ Low Budget Press Trip Sustainable vegetable and wine growing in the Palatinate. Story by: Adrian Krebs, Photo: Yanne Boloh, Katharina Seuser
From July 6th to 8th, 18 agricultural Journalists visited the Palatinate in Germany for a vegetable and wine tour. We had excellent weather and an exciting programme in a region that hardly anybody of us knew.
Beautiful hilly landscapes and 3600 wineries
The Palatinate is a little bit off-track in Germany. No world-famous cities are around, and the main traffic axes don’t pass here. We found a beautiful hilly landscape with interesting farms and wineries welcomed like VIP visitors.
The Palatinate is near the French border, and the mentality and lifestyle are almost French. A glass of wine is never far away, and there are countless village festivities, often in connection with wine or vegetables.
It is Germany’s 2nd biggest wine-growing region with 22.800 hectares of vineyards, a production of 2,5 million hectoliters and 3600 wineries. It has a mild climate with low yearly precipitation of around 500 millimetres. The dominating grape variety is Riesling.
10.600 hectares of vegetables
But the Palatinate is also an important vegetable region. They are produced on a surface of 10.600 hectares. It is the largest closed cultivation area for open-field vegetables in the whole country.
The program started with a dinner hosted by RWZ and winemaker Wolfram Meinhardt. Raiffeisen Warenzentrale (RWZ) is the thirdbiggest german ag cooperative. They have 2500 employees in 200 locations. It was interesting to hear how they try to grow abroad (mainly in France) because they see no more capacity for growth in their home turf.
Less plant protection possibilities
Much smaller is the family winery of Wolfram Meinhardt. He told us about the area’s challenges and promising aspects of wine production. One of his main challenges is the reduction of possibilities in the plant protection field.
The next morning we began with the same subject. At the Federal Research Centre for Grapevine Breeding Geilweilerhof, a branch of the world-famous Julius Kühn Institute for Ag research, we were welcomed by director Reinhard Töpfer. He explained that the main breeding focus is the higher resistance of the grapes against drought and pests. There is a large number of so-called Piwi-varieties breeded and tested in the picturesque village of Siebeldingen. The main challenge: Raise the acceptance of new varieties among producers and consumers.
The king and queen of vegetables
Next on the Programme was visiting the Schenk and Siebert winery in Grünstadt. Brothers Christoph and Johannes are the 3rd generation on the 42-hectares estate. They told us about the proceeding digitalization on the farm. The tool is Vineyard Cloud by RWZ. It helps to improve the quality of the spraying, among other things. Every tractor is equipped with the necessary software and helps lower qualified workers to fulfil their tasks. And to find the right field… the winery is producing 80 widespread parcels.
In the afternoon, we entered the vegetable world. Peter and Heike Fehmel have a huge operation with 350 hectares of open field and tunnel vegetables. Recently they have also expanded their raspberry production in tunnels. At the moment, the surface is around 40 hectares. Peter operates the production.
Heike is, meanwhile, very successful with her processing. She has a range of 140 products with the label “Von Heike”. This all started with an Anti-Food-Waste thought. Heike was looking for a way to use all 2nd class vegetables in the food chain.
Underground at BASF
The evening was dedicated to one of the main sponsors, BASF. Surprisingly to most of us, they own one of the 10 biggest wine cellars in Germany, with a stock of one million bottles. We had an extended tasting tour in the cool underground and were invited for an excellent dinner in the company’s former headquarters in Ludwigshafen.
On Saturday, we started with a visit to Neupotz, where Dominik Allaire is a farmer with a mission: He wants to get in closer touch with the consumer. His main tools: Biodiversity and direct milk sales. He is convinced that farmers must explain their actions to get the consumer’s support. Dominik’s strategy is to operate in different sectors and to reduce risk: Milk cows, a large variety of cereals, tobacco, field vegetables etc.
Thanks to the organizers!
Our last visit was dedicated to the Hörner family in Hochstadt, where Reinhold told us everything about the production in challenging surroundings. A visit to the fields on the back of an agricultural trailer was included. Always a good experience and perfect fresh air delivery on a hot day.
The trip was excellent. We got deep insight, enjoyed great wines and food and had much fun.
Thanks to sponsors, hosts and organizers, mainly Katharina Seuser and Friederike Krick of VDAJ, the German guild of Ag journalists!