November 11, 2020
I tend to push word jokes to the limit, so even though there are still many GRAND variations, I promise this one was the last.
In the previous blog I explained the GRAND FARM in a bit more detail, showing the three components and how they feed into each other. Now, I would like to give you an insight into my life here, specifically my daily activities and what I am learning.
According to my internship plan, half of my time should be spent learning and doing practical farm work, while the other half should be spent on a computer and desk-based project funded by the European Commission (more on this in future blogs). Arriving in Austria halfway through August, however, meant arriving in a busy period for the Grand Garten. Lots of harvesting and weeding needed to be done, as well as preparations and planting for the winter. In the first few weeks, my hands were holding farm equipment a lot more than they were touching a keyboard.
The Market Garten team consists of a group of young, highly motivated, and very friendly professionals. They set about teaching me the ropes with great enthusiasm. In no time I learned how to prepare the soil, sow seeds, plant seedlings, weed and harvest. Although in true trainee fashion, I still only perform at 2/3 of the speed that they do!
Additionally, I’ve become intimately acquainted with an essential piece of market garden machinery called the BCS tractor, and have started familiarising myself with all kinds of plant diseases, pests and their enemies (aptly named schädlingeund nützlinge in German).
Despite the busy times, it pleases me greatly that Alfred always makes the effort to include me in the arable farming activities, too. He regularly comes by on the tractor and plucks me out of the garden for a small lesson, demonstration, or some actual tractor work! He often likes to say that “a farmer has to be a little bit of everything, if not, he will always have to pay someone, and farmers can’t afford that!”
Therefore I am proud to say that in my time here I am not only learning about the reality of running a market garden and farm, but I have also learned to weld (sort of), to build (a little bit), and that (using a kind of giant chainsaw called the ‘ditchwitch') I have dug a 1km electrical cable into the ground from the farm to my container in order to provide myself with electricity.
No panic! The fact that the Garten had not yet been blessed with electricity or running water upon my arrival was known to me, and Alfred actually offered to put me up in a bed & breakfast. At that point however, my military pride kicked in and I chose to ‘rough it’, sleeping on a camping bed, cooking outside on a gas burner and taking my ‘shower’ at the end of a hard day’s work in the nearby, beautiful little lake. I loved it, but am also happy to say that now that summer is but a memory, I have access to electricity, a warm shower and a lovely little woodfired stove.
Also, with the arrival of Autumn, I believe I am learning my most valuable lesson of all: Even though farmers are dependent on each of the four seasons, even the most motivated and healthy (future) farmer can become weary when it is cold and wet outside but the frisolen (beans) need harvesting...
As for my life outside of work, I must again warmly thank the team. If it wasn’t for them I think I would have been a pretty lonely guy in an empty container. Not only did they help me decorate my living quarters, they have provided me with a social life! In the weekends we have visited other market gardens and vineyards; gone on hikes, climbs and swimming excursions in the river.
I have also gotten lost in Vienna with the production manager who claims to have lived there all her life; and if I really need a breather, I can chill on the couch at the farm with Alfred and watch ‘Kiss the ground’.
All in all, life here is pretty G….
Paula Trakoštanec conducted her MSc internship at La Junquera, and shares her experience monitoring biodiversity in this blog.
February 2, 2023