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How it has always been

Young farmer Martin Hauser is proud of his steep apple orchard which he and his family farm by hand

Martin Hauser shares the route to his workplace with hiking fans and culture vultures. A narrow path leads along a vertical rock face, which is not accessible to machinery, and on to the mediaeval chapel of St. Ägidius in Vinschgau, South Tyrol. The larger-than-life fresco painting of Saint Christopher on the southern facade dates from around 1330. And directly below: the stone entrance - almost a gateway - to Hauser’s apple orchard. Weeds are pulled out by hand and the apples are transported on a rickety handcart along the path into the valley after harvesting.

A brave decision

Everything exudes a centuries-long history here: the 700 year old stone walls, the so-called rough terraces where the apples are grown in rows and the people who till the land. The grandfather of the family was also an apple farmer back in the 1950s. He initially grew the fruit for his own family. Now Martin Hauser, born in 1993, heads the farm - no longer for his own use but for sale. Some new challenges have arisen in the meantime: Hauser reflects on the stricter environmental constraints and bureaucracy imposed on him, for example determining the size of an apple according to its variety.

Thinking pragmatically

Being a farmer today requires a certain level of pragmatism, Hauser says as shows off the broad valley below him. Here, in addition to the plot below the chapel, he also owns more apple orchards and more hectares of land which, this time, are accessible by tractor and other machinery. “Without that, it doesn’t work,” says the young farmer for whom farming on the historic rough terraces is something of a loss-leader.

So why not just leave the land fallow? Martin Hauser laughs mischievously at the question. “No, a South Tyrolean can’t do that!” The landscape should be orderly and well-tended. This task is important to us”.

Exceptional ambition

Martin Hauser took on the farm at the age of just 21 with the same commitment to tradition and continuity. But there was no question of anything else for him, the youngest of four siblings. “It has always been that way for me. Since I helped out as a child in the apple orchard”.

The humility radiated by Hauser is evident too in his dedication to his work. “Bringing the best product to the market,” he says, without hesitation. There are so many conditions which are beyond an apple farmer’s control: the weather, the sunshine, the demand. “Making the best of it is ambition in itself”.

Patience and appreciation

What is the most important characteristic for growing - even in your own garden?

Definitely patience. And this year, I tried it with something new: cauliflower. The vegetable has a long-standing tradition in the Vinschgau valley and is now being discovered anew by many farmers. I will only find out after the first harvest whether it was a good idea!

What do the consumers expect of you?

The most important thing is to appreciate the quality of a product. Paying an appropriate price for it contributes to preserving agriculture as we know it.

 

Text: Teseo La Marca

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