Good Fruit Grower

January 2015

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20 JANUARY 1, 2015 GOOD FRUIT GROWER W hat must it be like to have a small farm, say 10 acres, and have it in your family for decades, maybe centuries? You grow up there and know every hill, every rock, every tree so well you could walk the place blindfolded. Now you're the owner, and one of your children is out there walking around the place. The kid will one day take over, like you did. As our American farms get larger, we lose this direct contact with the land. We delegate more work to hired laborers while we owner/managers focus on computer screens and tasks we call management. And we shrug and say, "Well, we have to give up some things to have others. We need to make more income." On the apple farms of South Tyrol (Sudtirol), the German-speaking, most northerly Alpine province of Italy, the farmers seem to see it differently. In a 180-degree twist from the American way, they seem to delegate the "offi ce" work to others and keep the "real" farm work for themselves. Members of the International Fruit Tree Association who toured the South Tyrol in November weren't sure who made the right decision, but they sure admired the most visible part of the outcome—the Tyrolean apple grower lifestyle. Lean and tanned and smiling, surrounded by mountain scenery, they have a laborer's hands but certainly are not starving peasants. American growers wondered: Have these farmers given up the real challenging part of the job—learning complicated processes, making choices and decisions, gaining the rewards and penalties for what they choose to do? No, they haven't, but they don't make the same choices and decisions over and over, farm by farm. These Alpine growers are the most cooperative, com- munity-oriented, congenial farmers imaginable. They compete, but not with each other. Land almost never changes hands, and there's little incentive—or opportu- nity—to grow the farm larger. They have given up some freedom of individ- ual choice, opting for democratic participation in Cooperation among small growers helps them compete and thrive. by Richard Lehnert Italy's growing heritage 2015 Special Series Apples of Italy with Richard Lehnert Rome Venice Milan SWITZERLAND AUSTRIA SLOVENIA CROATIA FRANCE ITALY SOUTH TYROL (SUDTIROL) Merano Bolzano

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