In East Westphalia-Lippe, Obsthof Otte grows fresh strawberries and raspberries, apples, pears and plums for the region. The fruit farm can look back on 100 years of fruit-growing and at this point in time, Charlotte Otte is preparing management, as a fourth generation manager. The fruit farm is characterized by its regional reference as well as by its sustainability and fairness towards the seasonal workers. But current trends in digitalization are also on the young fruit farmer's agenda.
She is working her way into fruit production with a great deal of commitment and passion: "We put a lot of effort into cultivation and marketing, starting with the selection of varieties, and the goal is optimum qualities for happy customers. We started the strawberry season with varieties like Flair, then many more followed and now we are harvesting the Faith and Malwina varieties," Otte says.
Charlotte Otte takes over the orchard.
Weather vs. strawberries
"Like all the other farms, we were not spared from cold, heavy rains and then extreme heat. However, thanks to our mini-tunnels, we enjoyed relatively good strawberry yields, at least until the first major warm spell in early June," Charlotte shares. "After that, as we all know, everything that can be called a strawberry was marketed at once. All efforts and great ideas to time the ripening dates have been more or less ignored by Mother Nature. This year we are a little behind, vegetation-wise. Compared to last year, we are about 10-14 days behind."
Pleasing raspberry harvest
"This year's raspberry crop is particularly pleasing. We have wonderful fruit starting now. We grow them in high tunnels, at least mostly. Raspberries really don't like rain, so we protect them accordingly. We are very pleased with the quality. The raspberries are very beautiful and they taste great. We are growing the Vajolet and Tulameen varieties."
Instead of using pesticides, the orchard relies on alternative measures whenever possible. "The nice thing is that through the raspberry tunnels, we can just also rely heavily on beneficial insect pollination, growing in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way. My father, Karsten Otte, has been involved from the beginning in testing out organic cultivation methods and also establishing them in integrated cultivation or transferring them to conventional cultivation. Our goal is to grow sustainably in harmony with nature and to promote biodiversity. In addition to fantastic qualities, this is part of our farm's success."
"Soon we will also be able to harvest the first sour cherries, plums and early apples. This will be followed by the first pears until we really get into the apple season and harvest our 30 different apple varieties during the fall. We sell these mainly as a regional brand within retail and we are known for the fact that Otte fruit has a special value due to our production methods."
Retrospect and progress
Obsthof Otte relies on long-time workers. "Word gets around that people like to work for us because the conditions are fair and we care for our people. But we also feel that the labor supply is dropping off, and it's getting harder to find good harvesters."
Expenses nor efforts were spared to implement the Corona prevention measures. "Particularly regarding seasonal workers, with whom we deal on a daily basis, we are aware of our responsibilities. We were able to improve the preventive measures for Corona containment as well as other precautions also thanks to the experience we gained last year. Last year, we flew in seasonal workers, doubled the capacity of transport logistics and accommodations. These effort and the costs involved have increased significantly. Compensation as in the state of Brandenburg of €150 per seasonal worker would be a desirable signal of support."
More sustainable is smarter
Otte likes to emphasize the special opportunity to be able to produce food, because after all, these are the means by which and through which we all live. They are our livelihood. "I firmly believe that if we communicate the background to our agricultural production transparently and openly, we can achieve greater awareness and appreciation among many people. But this also includes sustainable production on the part of producers, which means dealing responsibly with people, nature, the environment and resources."
Otte is pleased that more and more people are recognizing and appreciating the special value of regional and sustainable produce.