Franz Allofs on the cooperation with Meijers Planten and the trademark protection for Walbecker Asparagus

A collaboration that results in delicious asparagus

Asparagus farm Allofs from Geldern-Walbeck is a traditional farm and for many years it has been both cultivating and breeding young asparagus plants. The breeding was so successful that it has now exceeded the capacity of the farm. Senior partner Franz Allofs and his son decided to cooperate with Dutch company Meijers Planten, out of Posterholt.

"Our asparagus farm is located very close to the Dutch border and has greatly expanded its acreage in recent years. We have had been propagating young plants for 15 years, and last year we had a lot of work to do." Harvesting, sorting and transporting the plants to customers has become an increasingly difficult task for the company. "All the breeding work is, after all, in addition to our own cultivation of asparagus in mini-tunnels." In March, deliveries could still be managed, but with the beginning of the harvest, their full capacity was reached and sometimes they even had to default on deliveries.

A good team
René Meijers and Franz Allofs knew each other from last year's ExpoSE and so Allofs turned to his acquaintance to remedy the situation. "At that time we had already talked about cooperating, but since we had already seeded we wanted to deliver our products ourselves again in the 2018 season." In the spring of this year there was a lot to do: "We did not manage to harvest all our asparagus, because we had too few helpers for harvesting, sorting and delivering them." The shortage of labor also had an impact on the sales of young plants: "Since everyone was busy harvesting, the holdings did not buy any seedlings between 10 and 24 April, as they did not have time to plant anything." In early May, the plants were then cleared and taken over by the Meijers company for sorting and delivery.

Spargelhof Allofs has now confidently passed on its entire clientele to the Meijers company. "I myself am still working on sales and will keep doing this as a retiree as long as I feel like it." On business trips through Germany, Allofs always learns a lot about the sector: "I've been visiting our customers for 15 years, looking at the fields. That way you learn a lot about the industry."

Walbecker asparagus G.I.
Next year, the Allofs farm will celebrate its 90th anniversary. It is now being run by Franz's son Michael. "The company is a member of asparagus cooperative Walbeck and Umgegend e.G, which was founded in 1929 by dr. Klein Walbeck. This in turn was built up by my grandfather Alois Allofs as one of the first members."

Franz Allofs himself was chairman of this cooperative for 25 years. In 2005, he attended a seminar of the state government and was informed about trademark protection: "I immediately thought this would be a good idea for our Walbecker asparagus. As it turned out, we had the best prerequisites as an asparagus region with a long tradition. After much planning we got the trademark protection, the geographical indication." Then all growers in the affected area were trained at their own expense, the acreage area was adjusted by means of soil maps (since soil types affected the taste) and a marketing company was established. "Today we market our asparagus as a branded, regional product."

At present, asparagus is harvested on 210 hectares in Walbeck, and 95% of the vegetables are sold within North Rhine-Westphalia. "Furthermore, there are 40 hectares of new plants, and since our trademark protection five years ago, the acreage has already been expanded by 80 hectares." All growers in this area are members of the marketing company.

Green asparagus
"Nothing is more consistent than impermanence, so I would not say white asparagus is unchallenged in the German market, as green asparagus has about an 8% share in Germany." The expert notes that white asparagus is favored predominantly by the elderly, whereas the anthocyanin-free, green varieties are less fibrous and have a milder, nutty flavor, reminiscent of vegetables such as broccoli. That makes it popular among the younger generations. "The market for green asparagus is not yet saturated, so advertising in the industry is trying to get people interested in the vegetables, but personally, I do not think that will see any significant changes."

Franz Alllofs sees little need for an expansion as far as the length of the season is concerned, in particular since German cultivation always ends the season on 24 June anyway. "After that you have to give the plants the opportunity to regenerate."

For more information:
Franz Allofs
Spargelhof Allofs
Broecksteg 5
47608 Geldern-Walbeck
Tel.: +49 0 28 31 / 33 82

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