Farming 2.0

Farming 2.0

Young farmers in South Tyrol go their own way

For centuries, farmers in South Tyrol have approached their work in the traditional manner. And they are doing well. Their regional produce, apples, wine and dairy products are sold all around the world. These classical traditional farms take advantage of technical progress, but remain small family-run farms, operated in much the same way they were centuries ago, especially in remote valleys such as Ultental Valley, Schnalstal Valley and Passeiertal Valley, yet some things have also changed and are now different.

The younger generation is bringing a breath of fresh air into local agriculture. Many young people today consciously decide to continue working at their family farm. But classic farming is no longer enough for them. These new farmers seek more.

Whether male or female, many farmers of today go their own way. Before settling down in South Tyrol, many still want to see the world. Some study, travel, or gain experience in another profession or decide to work and travel on farms across the globe. They absorb knowledge from other parts of the world and then take things in different directions once they take over their parents' farm.

Many look for a niche in order to be able to make a living, because traditional livestock-based mountain farming is either not profitable enough or not sustainable. Unfortunately, it has become more difficult today to put an emphasis on both quality and sustainability. But these young farmers do succeed in finding their niche, and expect more from agriculture than simply to make a living. They also want to experiment, to introduce innovations, to work in a sustainable manner.

For example, take young farmers like Simon Werth and Simon Waldthaler, who grow pawpaw fruit to be processed into juice. This is the so-called wild banana – a fruit native to North America that grows on large-leaved trees and still considered an exotic plant in Europe. Look at Alois Schiefer, who grows artichokes in the Passeiertal Valley, a healthy vegetable that can be prepared in many different ways. Or take Martin Pichler, another young farmer from the same valley, who does not process his apples into juice but rather into delicious monovarietal apple cider. Others grow old and new herbs, organic fruit and vegetables, or livestock for the quality restaurants of the area. The list could go on and on.
Visitors can buy these rare delicacies at the farmers’ own farm shops or local shops such as Pur Südtirol in the cities and towns in the area.

To “get back to the roots” is once again fashionable these days. There are farmers like Harald Gasser, who place their focus on forgotten fruit and vegetable varieties or Petra Schwienbacher, who has returned to raising woolly pigs. This is traditional farming, but at the right time and with the right attitude.

The young farmers are different – they take a daring approach, and know they have to. Otherwise they could simply do a different job. To return to your parents’ mountain farm, you have to be a little bit crazy. As well as tied to the homeland. You have to prefer a “career in the fields” and a lot of work that at least never gets boring, instead of a regular job.

These young South Tyrolean farmers are dynamic do-ers – full of passion for their work, which is so much more than just a job.
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