The "tough path" towards growth in organic farming

By Christian BlockAnouk Flesch Switch to German for original article

Efficient marketing, growing competition, operating costs, or the laws of the trade… There are many hurdles in the expansion of organic farming. However, farmers like Charel Noesen are convinced of the future viability of this model.

Bolognese sauce with chicken, egg liqueur, carrot spread, and leek sticks: the range of products on offer in the "Haischen" just in front of the "Haff Trifolie" gives a small insight into the product variety of the family business in Cruchten. Everything found in the self-service shop is organic.

In 2017, the Noesen family dared to experiment and switched to organic farming. The three brothers Willy, Charel and Paul were the driving force behind it. "We switched out of idealism" says Charel Noesen, who serves "Viz" (apple juice) grown in his own orchard. For the environmental engineer, it became clear during his studies that organic farming is “more future-oriented” than conventional farming. "Agriculture is often just economics" he says, it is a sector trimmed by political decisions in the direction of "bigger and bigger and more and more". The young generation does not want to get involved in that.

The main pillars of the organic farm are milk, eggs, vegetables and the direct marketing of honey, wild garlic pesto, etc. in the "Haischen". The Cruchten business mainly functions because the whole family and one employee lend a hand. For example, mother Irène, cooks diligently whilst Willy Noesen and employee Mariusz are sorting the too small or damaged potatoes by hand during the site visit.

“You can’t count the hours”

The conversion and the broader positioning of the farm mean more effort in cultivation and marketing. "You have to take much more care of your soil, take many things into consideration and plan more" says Charel. If you grow the same thing all the time, you will not be able to keep on top of the weeds. The time needed to control weeds with harrowing or hoeing is four times higher than going over the plot with sprays, he says. In addition, the soil condition is crucial for mechanical weed control. Less antibiotic use means closer monitoring of cows, which also need to be allowed to graze. Antibiotics are not usually allowed on chickens and, they need twice as much running space as their conventionally kept counterparts.

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