This year, farmer Kai Reinheimer from Ginsheim started growing and selling Mexican snack cucumbers. "While looking for special products, my daughter Nina came across the snack cucumbers. They have a ripening period of about five months. Unlike conventional cucumbers, which grow upwards, the snack cucumbers stay on the ground like marbles and grow closed. So far, we have harvested only 28 kg, with about another 30 kg to come."
The rainy month of August provided suitable production conditions. "We have a large portfolio of customers. With the small quantities we grow of the product, it sells out fast. Whether there is the potential to grow it again next year remains to be seen. Even if there were more interest, the snack cucumbers would not be a product we would grow on a large scale. It's more of a niche product that our customers take a small amount of every now and then."
Difficult sales situation for tomatoes and melons
"The current shortage of some products is reflected in good sales. But unfortunately the prices do not match the production costs. I suspect that this has to do with the wholesale business on the one hand and various long-term contracts on the other," says Reinheimer. "Our tomatoes are just dying down, while we have a total shortfall in watermelons and yellow melons because there was simply no heat in August. In the fresh vegetables we also had a small hole because the sowing was delayed due to the rains and consequently also the harvest."
According to Reinheimer, there was 300 mm of precipitation in August alone. "In contrast, we had a total of 420 mm of precipitation over the whole of 2022. Although we were at least able to weed with machines, we still had to plant many things by hand. We also notice that the nights are getting warmer and the high temperatures last longer than before. Planting days are changing as a result. Crops that are sensitive to heat, such as romanesco, are therefore ready to be harvested much later."
Good sales of cabbage, kohlrabi and leeks
Reinheimer is positively surprised about the sales of large romaine and batavia lettuces. "Consumers seem to be focusing on tastier salads again. Meanwhile, demand for other types of lettuce is rather down. Given the cool weather in August and because consumers were forced to cook a lot at home, we were also able to achieve surprisingly good sales of vegetables such as cabbage, kohlrabi and leeks."
The Reinheimer family vegetable farm.
Faltering weekly markets
"For some years now, we have been pursuing the goal of becoming more independent of the wholesale markets. There is only one wholesaler with whom we still cooperate, but he buys the entire range from us. Our credo has always been to be as close as possible to the end consumer. With Knuspr, we have found a partner who can handle the online business well," says Reinheimer. However, he also sells his goods at weekly markets, where he recognises two moods: "On the one hand, you notice that the weekly markets are a bit more popular again, because last year almost everyone went on holiday. On the other hand, we are currently seeing that a lot of smaller weekly markets are closing because business is down.
The increased minimum wage, including social security costs, would add up to 50 per cent to the costs. "Additionally, there is the question of who is still willing to stand at a weekly market stall on weekends or in winter when there is the possibility of working in an office during the week instead. Even if a weekly market stall has enough staff, smaller district markets in particular lack the turnover to cover the costs." The population is rediscovering weekly markets for themselves, but they tend to frequent the central or traditional locations. "Even the larger weekly markets now have gaps that didn't exist in the past. The investment costs for a weekly market have risen sharply in recent years."
The produce grown at the Reinheimer family's vegetable farm is also being sold through the regional section in food retailing. "Both food retailers and our direct partners sell our products under our name. This creates an emotional bond with the end consumers, which also strengthens their trust in us. As a customer, you simply know what you get for your money."
Between 50 and 70 employees are working on his farm. "They work with us for between seven and ten months. We have come through the Corona period well. Even in the wake of the minimum wage increase, we have been able to retain our staff. Especially since our employees have always been very loyal to us. However, it is also important to us that they are not housed in containers, but in proper apartments. It is also important to us that the social interaction is right and that they are not simply left to their own devices. You can definitely say that it's quite family-like here."
Pictures: Reinheimer Vegetable Farm