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The apple farmer and her animals

Iris Steck cuts trees, harvests apples and drives the tractor. The young farmer proves herself with passion in a male domain. And that's exactly why she enjoys her job even more.

"I am someone who needs nature: being outdoors and working with my hands. I couldn't imagine myself in an office job." Resolute, cheerful and yet very calm is how Iris appears when visiting her farm in Partschins/Parcines.

Iris may not have been born with an apple in her hand...

...but she practically was. She took over the farm from her mother when she was just a teenager, and her grandfather mainly used to grow apples. Her great-grandfather also engaged in grass farming and had vines, potatoes and just a few apple trees. But times have changed and there are new challenges to overcome in agriculture.

"I was always there in the holidays, helping out, so I got to know everything I need to know today." My interest in my mother's farm was always there, even after I left school. The family stands together, and those who can lend a hand on the farm. That has always been the case.

Try something new

Iris Steck belongs to the young generation of apple farmers. She wants to break the mould. For example, she and her father built a large insect hotel that stands in the trees next to the courtyard. In the same way, their facilities include an apiary, but also nesting boxes for earwigs, bird houses and perches for larger birds.

Iris has had quite a few ideas for bringing life to her meadow. "The useful insects should be preserved, better still encouraged. With these types of measures, I am trying out new practices that are good for my trees and the meadow." She pursues the same goal with her runner ducks and the sheep that roam freely in the meadows, quacking and bleating. "They eat pests, grass and also all kinds of other annoying things. It works. And I like having my animals around me too."

"Mei liabste Wies” award

With all her initiatives, in 2019, Iris even won the "Mei liabste Wies" competition held by the South Tyrolean Apple Consortium. She is proud of this and has even become a little "famous" because of it. In everyday life, it's less about competitions and more about simple varieties, the right harvest window and good weather. "As a young farmer, I don't really have any problems with men," says Iris. "Maybe I had it harder sometimes in the beginning as a young woman, but I wouldn’t say that’s the case anymore."

The fruits of labour

Which work throughout the year is your favourite?

Definitely harvesting the fruit. Because then you finally see the end result of the entire year's work. It is a very stressful and demanding time for all of us, but also lovely. Because you can finally reap the fruits of your labour. And not only in the proverbial sense.

What is the best way to store apples?

Apples look nice in the fruit bowl, but they don't keep well there. They like cool spaces and prefer to keep to themselves, which means storing them next to other fruit is not a good idea. How well the apples can be stored also depends on the weather during the harvest.

Text: Karin Heinisch
Photos: Anna Gruber