Today, the Landgard Cooperative is the most important producer association in Germany and supplies all the leading food retail chains in Germany. How different this was in 1989, when Mr Stoffers entered the Union of Horticultural Markets (UGA). "At that time we were still hardly producer-oriented, focusing only on the trade." But gradually they became convinced of direct supply without intermediate trade, driven by a focus on rationality and a short value-added chain. "I am very happy about this award and I see it as an incentive for the future, for me and my colleagues. We also need committed gardeners in the future,” says Stoffers.
The farmer from the Lower Rhine does not only believe in the power of the collective, but also in changing customer requirements. Apart from a few solid outdoor crops such as iceberg lettuce, and now in winter savoy cabbage and kohlrabi, Stoffers has also had the Jaromaki cabbage since last year. “This is an old, but easily consumable cabbage breed, which is very well received by the customers. This also applies to Swiss chard, from which we grow a colorful and green variety: during the 17th and 18th centuries this was a very popular product, but after that it has been forgotten. For some years, however, it is back in fashion. Rewe has included the Swiss chard, for example, in the Rewe Feine Welt product line.”
Stoffers believes that a modern vegetable producer supplies the entire service; both cultivation and packaging. Not for nothing does the Krefeld farmer has a large packaging plant at his disposal, in which the products are packed, tailored to the customer’s wishes. Around 60 people are at the site in season, one-third of whom are permanent employees, supplemented by seasonal workers. “It's hard to find professionals today, because the job is not so well-regarded here in Germany.”
Although his son Matthias will be joining the company next month, Mr. Stoffers does not intend to say goodbye to vegetable gardening. As it stands, junior will mainly be working on the outdoor vegetables and Stoffers himself will focus more on the cultivation of cucumbers in the greenhouses. In addition, the farmer wants to continue his role in the Advisory Board Fruit and Vegetables. “The last few years we have been fighting hard for the growers, and I will definitely continue to do so.”
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