“Our children might graduate from school with the knowledge of how to fly to the moon, but they don’t have a clue about how important food production is.”
For Gerhard Zoubek, organic farming is no laughing matter. When he and his wife, Sigrid, inherited her family farm 21 years ago, they faced a lot of formidable challenges.
For a start, their decision to convert to organic was not a popular one.
“We were newcomers, not officially schooled farmers,” he recalls. “For a long time, we were not taken very seriously.”
Since then, the Adamah BioHof farm, in the village of Glinzendorf in Marchfeld, has grown into a business covering 90 hectares of land, employing over 100 people (including the entire Zoubek family), and delivering boxes of organic produce to 5,500 customers in and around Vienna.
Still, despite his success, Zoubek is not convinced that Austrians fully appreciate the value and potential of organic farming.
“Austrians are quite uneducated when it comes to understanding where their produce comes from,” he laments.
After giving us a tour of the farm grounds, we are treated to an express mini-lesson on the specifics of organic techniques.
For example, one common misconception is that buying “regional” is just as good as “organic.” But the difference between conventional farming and truly “certified organic” lies, quite literally, in the ground the crops are grown in. Conventional agriculture usually uses chemical fertilizers, creating an unnatural, forced growth, while organic farmers work with the soil so that the plant can draw what it needs from it naturally, Zoubek explains.
He believes that consumer behavior lies at the core of true change.
“People now spend less on food than they do on leisure and housing,” Zoubek muses. “How is it that people are more willing to invest in the latest smartphone, but then they’ll go with the cheapest discount food offered by one of the three supermarket chains that monopolize the industry?”
Zoubek and his family are trying to change that, offering “excursions” to their farm, cooking courses and a variety of other events. Looking out at the lovely expanse of cultivated countryside, we had to nod. Food is a pleasure, but it is not a joke.