Our farm is a medium to small farm, compared to the others in the area says Clemens Mayr, a farmer from Erding, Germany, while pointing to the distant fields on his farm. This surprises his guests from Mali, Madagascar and Switzerland; a farm of 60 hectares is considered a large farm in the visitors home countries.
It is Sunday, the 21st of July 2013, and the visitors on the family farm in Bavaria are three participants of the 26th International Leadership Workshop for Rural Youth in Herrsching, Germany. Elisabeth and Clemens Mayr decided to participate this year in the program of the Seminar and agreed on showing three international guests around on their farm. Their visitors are Maimouna from Mali, Noeline from Madagascar and Johanna from Switzerland.
Elisabeth and Clemens Mayr farm a 60 hectares farm with main focus on fattening bulls. A total of 180 bulls is kept at the farm. The couple mainly uses the feeds produced on the farm, barley, wheat and corn, and tries to keep the share of imported soy at only 10% of the total feed ratio of the bulls. Most work is done by the farmers themselves and only few machines and services are rented from the local machine ring.
The visitors are impressed by the heavy work the couple is doing every day: there are no employees at the farm, the whole work is done by Clemens and his wife, only during weekends their son is occasionally helping out. A farm of this size is not profitable, says Clemens. Many farms in this regions disappear, because it is either not possible to go on farming or there is no successor that is going on. Many farms can only survive because of the subsidies from the government.
The couple is approaching retirement and is preparing to hand the farm over to their son, who will be the new head of the farm in 2 years while his parents will continue working on the farm as his employees. Handing the farm over to the next generation is not always easy. Elisabeth Mayr says: We will clearly separate the two households, otherwise there is a large potential of conflicts between the two families.
Impressed by the hard work and the difficult situation many family farms struggle with, the visitors ask, if stopping to farm is an option for the family Mayr. Not at all! is the very clear answer of Clemens and his wife. Their strong bonds to the land that was owned by the family for generations, respect for nature and the joy of working independently leaves no other option to them than being farmers. How can this commitment be transferred to young people and keep them on farms? More policy support for family owned farms and less focus on industrial farming! is Clemens clear answer.
Additionally the couple agrees that a very negative image of farming is cultivated in peoples minds: to most people farming means only very hard work and little return. Although work is hard, it can also be very rewarding and this should be communicated to the young generation. And it would also make farming a lot more attractive to young people, if holiday replacement for farmers would be easier and less expensive to organize! is the advice of Elisabeth Mayr.
Elisabeth Mayr recently invited school classes on the farm and showed them, how bread is produced from the wheat on the fields until the finished loaf. Although this means again extra work for the couple, Elisabeth enjoys this very much and is planning to participate again in this programme as well as taking further guests from the Herrsching seminar. It is important, that people know, what agriculture and being a farmer means.The education of children and consumers is an important way for farmers, to improve the societys perception of farming as such and sustain the future of a healthy agriculture. After these serious words Elisabeth opens her fridge and lets us taste her delicious homemade strawberry ice with fruits from the farm. Farming can also be a pleasure!
Illustration 1: Elisabeth and Clemens Mayr with Maimouna, Noeline and the dog Rocky in the garden of their farm Illustration 2: Stop farming is no option for Clemens Mayr, he is a committed farmer Illustration 3: After the interesting visit on the farm we really enjoy the self made ice cream of Elisabeth Mayr!