Our producers: vegetables from the Spitaler farm in Vöran Our producers: vegetables from the Spitaler farm in Vöran

Our producers: vegetables from the Spitaler farm in Vöran

Self-sufficient, sustainable, visionary: Verena and Erhard from the Spitalerhof farm in Vöran on the Tschögglberg mountain grow vegetables and run a small livestock farm to provide for themselves and their three children Mia, Lucy and Juri.

A childhood dream has come true for them: their own farm! Neither Verena nor Erhard Laner grew up on a farm, but in 2009 they took the plunge and moved to the Spitalerhof farm in Vöran. They started from scratch and, as self-taught farmers, gradually learned and optimized their work steps according to the principle of "learning by doing". Their aim was to be able to feed themselves all year round from the yields of the farm, to be self-sufficient and independent. Setbacks were inevitable, especially in the beginning, but knowledge and routine came with time. The Spitalerhof farm now supplies families and restaurants in Vöran with their farm produce and products. "First and foremost, however, we are still concerned with self-sufficiency, not so much with the economic yield - which is hardly feasible with our equipment and the area," says Verena.


Buying vegetables at Spitalerhof in Vöran: from the field straight into your shopping bag
Zero-kilometer, sustainable and organic quality! Join Verena in the field and harvest your vegetables directly from the plant.

NB: Please make sure you wear sturdy and suitable footwear.

"Our children should grow up close to nature"
Verena is her own boss. She can organize her work steps and decide what to grow. Nature sets the pace, and every season brings new tasks and variety. She enjoys being able to experience this anew every year. The most important thing for her, however, is that the children at Spitalerhof farm grow up with this knowledge. "The certainty of being able to teach our children about the cycle of the year and the origin of food so closely means a lot to us," she emphasizes. "I also know that we consume good and healthy food: Meat and eggs from our animals, berries, herbs and vegetables from our field."

The family cultivates approx. 2.5 hectares of green space on a slope. The vegetable plot is located below the house on a good south-facing slope and measures approx. 30 x 20 meters. Onions, carrots, beet, sugar snap peas, lettuce, chard, kohlrabi, red cabbage, white cabbage, zucchinis, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes and pumpkin are grown there. The woodland that belongs to the farm provides the firewood for their log heating system. Grey cattle and sheep with lambs are kept in the barn, and there are also chickens, quails, guinea pigs, a rabbit and three cats on the farm.

Sustainability is a priority
"We attach great importance to sustainability," says Verena. "We bought our vegetable seeds in organic quality right from the start, and they are grown and processed without chemical additives. The fields are also not fertilized with artificial fertilizers." The family is aiming for organic certification, but this would currently involve large investments and a conversion of the cowshed. "We want to find the 'right' thing for us, especially in terms of animal husbandry, and only then dare to take such a step," she explains.

When it comes to vegetables, however, Verena and Erhard have been working to organic standards for some time now. They obtain their seeds from an organic seed cooperative in Austria, but in many cases it is no longer necessary to buy fresh seeds at the Spitalerhof farm: Many plants sow themselves and have adapted to the local conditions - i.e. soil and climate - over the "generations": "There is, for example, the physalis cherry tree species “Molly”, which thrives magnificently here at 1200 m and has sweet fruit. I even process them into delicious compotes, which are served in the breakfast basket. Another example is our field tomatoes (similar to Marmande), which crept into the field years ago with the manure we spread in the fall and have been growing there ever since. We let the plants creep along the ground, so they are protected from the wind and cold and ripen with the warmth of the soil - without any protective film or greenhouse! The same applies to various cocktail and date tomatoes."

Verena's gardening tips in spring

1) We leave the parsnips and some carrots in the ground over winter. The parsnips and carrots get really sweet in the cold!
2. We only tidy up the field in spring. This means that some plants enrich the soil with nitrogen by rotting in, a lot can go to seed and some varieties sprout early so that they can be transplanted before they are cut down.

Self-sufficient yes, additional income yes
It's not possible to make a living without additional income, but the part-time job is easily combined with farming. "Erhard works as a teacher at the nearby secondary school and looks after our cattle, the sheep and the green spaces. I look after the three vacation apartments, the vegetable plot and our children. Erhard's father Luis comes to the farm from time to time to help us with larger jobs such as haymaking, certain barn work like cattle drive," says Verena. So everyone has their own field of work outside of farming, but it is compatible with the farm and the family.

"We sell our refined products such as fruit spreads, syrups and pickled vegetables in our produce corner at the Spitalerhof farm, otherwise the vegetables are sold fresh from the field," says Verena. During the vegetable season, which lasts from July to October at 1,200 m, she takes her customers to the vegetable field and harvests the vegetables directly from there. "In summer and fall, we offer a mixed vegetable box once a week for families in Vöran." Whatever the field has to offer goes into the box: Sometimes it's carrots, tomatoes, zucchinis or lettuce, sometimes beet, potatoes or pumpkin.

Tip: Children love parsnip crisps!

An exciting recipe from Verena that children especially love:
Parsnip crisps: Cut the parsnips into thin slices, deep-fry briefly in oil in a pan and season with salt or place on a baking tray in the oven and bake.

Organic farming
Sustainability is a top priority at Spitalerhof farm. "For us, sustainable, organic farming in harmony with nature means: soil-conserving agriculture and promoting biodiversity," explains Verena. Through circular economy, the natural production bases such as soil, biodiversity, water and climate are protected in the long term. The diversity of crops grown and animal species kept maintains and strengthens the stability and resilience of the ecosystem. The produce is processed directly on the farm or sold from the farm. This also minimizes emissions. "We are grateful that we took the opportunity to manage our farm sustainably," concludes Verena.
Tourismusverein Hafling-Vöran-Meran 2000 | 3/7/2024
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