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Job portrait: Organic farmer – Laura Herz

Continuing in the category about interesting professions. Lydia is a second-generation organic farmer and runs the farm together with her father. She tells us about the requirements for organic farms, how the farm is financed and her everyday life.

Tell us about your job as an organic farmer

I took over the farm in 2020 from my father, who ran it as a full-time business. i am now a part-time farmer and do it together with my father. We have 18 mother cows on the farm with their offspring. We also have a small flock of chickens, three horses, a dog and some cats.

What does your everyday life look like?

I get up at 6 a.m. and check on the animals first. The horses go out to pasture every day, even in the winter, and are only brought in again in the evening. The cows are usually fed by my father in the morning, while I go to my other job at the agricultural office, where I help other farmers to apply for their subsidies. In the evening, when I come home from work, I do everything that needs to be done. In winter, I feed the cows. In summer, when the animals are in the meadow, there is more work to do outside in the field. From spring on, we sow again and in summer, of course, there is the harvest.

What was your most extraordinary experience?

It was a few years ago, but we once had a Christmas calf. My favorite cow was in foal and unfortunately had a difficult birth. We spent 5 hours in the barn with the vet, fearing for the life of cow and calf. Finally, we were able to deliver the calf alive with a cesarean section. That was our little Christmas miracle! We named the calf Samantha and the cow Selma. In the meantime, the two are no longer with us on the farm, but that is my most extraordinary story so far, because it was something very special.

What do you love about your job?

Of course, dealing with the animals and being outside in nature. Especially when I’ve been in the office all day and get out into nature or go to my animals, it gives me an incredible amount. It gives you a lot of peace and it’s always very varied.

What distinguishes an organic farm? Specific feed, more space?

Yes exactly! When you decide to become an organic farm, there are initially two options: Either one commits to “only” comply with the requirements of the EU organic regulation or one decides to additionally join an organic farming association (e.g. like us Bioland).

In general, organic farms are characterized by the fact that the animals have more stable space available and a run or pasture during the growing season. In addition, all feed may also come only from organic cultivation. In agriculture you are not allowed to use chemical-synthetic pesticides (ugs. Spritzmittel) and also the fertilization is strongly regulated (e.g. organic fertilizer or pure mineral products).

Are you aiming for certification as a Demeter farm?

No, we do not want that. We have been affiliated with the Bioland association since last year and feel very comfortable there. Many of the surrounding farms in our area are also members.s at Bioland, so that it is easier to sell/buy animals/goods among each other once. In addition, I do not share some of the anthroposophical views of the Demeter Association (e.g. the obligation to keep horn-bearing cows or some farming practices).

How is the farm financed? Is it sufficient with the few animals?

In short, the farm is now mainly financed by the sale of our grain. Also from the proceeds of the slaughter animals from the suckler cow husbandry. And – like all other farms – we also live from the agricultural subsidies from the state, because unfortunately, even with organic products, the capitalist market system does not often pay the real price for the goods. The farm can finance itself through this income. Fortunately, as a part-time farmer, I have the advantage of not being dependent on the outdated pension and social security system of agriculture. All social security contributions are covered by my employment relationship. Our farm with its almost 20 animals and about 45 hectares of arable land and grassland would otherwise not be sufficient for the income of a family including old-age pensioners.

Do you sell the milk of the cows? Why are Selma and Samantha no longer on the farm?

Until a year ago we had about 20 Fleckvieh dairy cows. At that time we sold the milk, raised the calves of the dairy cows on our farm and then sold them as fattening animals to the slaughterhouse. I was and am very happy about that, because in many farms the calves already have to be sold or slaughtered. So Selma was one of our dairy cows at that time and Samantha, her calf, we sold after about 2 years. And also Selma as an old dairy cow (she was one of the oldest with 10 years) was then sold to the slaughterhouse. We love our animals and it is a sad moment every time when the animals go to the slaughterhouse. But especially in organic farming we live from the circular economy. In order to maintain the important permanent grassland, we need animals that utilize the grass and in turn provide us with important organic fertilizer for our arable land. As mentioned, we must not and do not want to use synthetic products.

What do you do now that you no longer have dairy cows?

Since we have become an organic farm, we no longer keep dairy cows, but only suckler cows. Conversion to a modern dairy barn would have cost several hundred thousand euros. Our mother cows are now on pasture from spring to summer and only in the barn in winter. They are allowed to raise their own calves and these are then slaughtered after about 2 years. I myself am against a massive consumption of meat, but not at the price of not being able to keep animals at all anymore – for the reasons I mentioned, such as the preservation of permanent grassland. If we all make sure that our meat is regionally sourced and preferably comes from certified organic farms, then animals and nature are already helped a little. Of course, regionally sourced organic meat is more expensive than many supermarket products, but I advocate buying less of the good stuff instead, and perhaps eating meat only once or twice a week instead of several days a week.

What about going on vacation? Especially when dad isn’t around?

With dairy farming, vacations were difficult to implement because the cows

e must of course be milked every day in the morning and evening, so that they do not get mastitis. My father has not taken a vacation for very many years. But this is also partly due to the old-farmer mentality. Farmers often find it difficult to “abandon their farm” and lie lazily on the beach, even if it is only for a few days. Many of the modern farms now have such good management that even a vacation is possible if you want it. Meanwhile, with our mother cows, vacations (except for the harvest or calving season) are very easy to arrange. Of course, my father and I could not go on vacation together, but I hope that when the Corona situation allows better again, my parents can finally take your long-deserved vacation.

You can find Lydia on Instagram under the name schwanenhof_koerber and you can also stop by my highlight “professions”.


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