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Sometimes enough is enough

Sometimes enough is enough

Sometimes enough is enough

In 1999, Karl and Agathe Lingenhel converted their farm in Doren to organic farming. At the time, many scratched their heads or laughed. Today they keep cows and produce cheese, honey, fruit and schnapps in addition to offering cooking classes - all in harmony with nature.

Doren: The panoramic views from here are truly one of a kind, especially when looking to the south. One’s gaze stretches from the Winterstaude mountain to the peak of the Kanisfluh and from the distant Damüls peaks to the gentle pre-Alpine foothills of the Hochälpele. Here the mountains of the Bregenzerwald literally lie at one’s feet. On the drive to Doren from Bregenz via Langen on this cloudy summer morning, there’s hardly anyone else on the road with the exception of a street sweeper (how utterly Vorarlberg!). I pause to admire its work as it sweeps the spotlessly clean country road that winds along forests and cow pastures.

In the morning, the organic farm of Karl and Agathe Lingenhel, a large estate on the road from Doren towards Krumbach, is bustling with activity. In the large old barn, a long board is being cut to size as I descend in the lift with farm-daughter Anna-Lena to the modern part of the farm. In the background, the mountains are obscured in haze as I peer out the wide windows of the new seminar room. Chickens strut through the garden in late summer. In the spacious kitchen next door, Anna-Lena’s mother Agathe stirs her large cooking pot.

Nowadays, the bounty on offer at the Lingenhel organic farm is simply mind-boggling: honey and fruit, dairy and cheese, schnapps and cooking courses. Since 2018 there is even a very popular farm shop. Over the years, this wide variety has grown organically as a result of the expertise and actions of the farm owners: “The transition to an organic farm happens in the mind,” says Karl Lingenhel. “The rest follows with time.” In 1999, as the youngest brother of the six Lingenhel siblings, he took over his parents’ farm with the firm intention of converting it to organic farming. The ramifications of using artificial fertilisers dissuaded the now 56-year-old, who graduated from the agricultural school in Hohenems, from conventional farming at an early stage. “We described our plans to my parents at the time. But I don’t know if they fully realised what that meant.”

Soon the Lingenhels became the talk of the village. “One day, my parents came back from the village and asked in amazement: ‘They say we are organic now?'” Karl and Agathe both laugh. It’s possible that people in Doren thought they were weirdos back then: “But I’m not the type to be dissuaded from my path that easily.”

These days, 23 hectares of land are farmed and 25 original Braunvieh cows with horns are kept in the barn. “With this ratio, we can produce food for the animals and manage in a financially balanced way,” says Karl. In 2012, he had the barn converted to a walk-in barn so that the solid manure produced could be used as fertiliser after composting. As of 2016, the animals no longer eat concentrated feed: “Since that time, our cows have been healthier and more agile.”

From the fruit of the old high-stem trees that grow in the meadows around the farm, Karl has been distilling schnapps in his own distillery since 2000. Agathe, who has always enjoyed helping out at her parents’ Riefensberg farm but is actually a trained master tailor, makes jams, syrups and chutneys from the fruits. Because the family can’t eat everything themselves, they eventually began selling Lingenhel products at markets in Vorarlberg: “People have so much fun with our stuff!” says Agathe. “I never thought that this direct contact with people would fulfill me so much.”

The official certification of their farm as organic is very important to the Lingenhels: “It is confirmation and recognition of the quality of our work, and valuable verification for everyone who buys from us.” The farm sale of jams, honey, schnapps and cheese has evolved into a small shop, while bread baking courses for acquaintances have turned into professional seminars and courses for children, school classes and adults. In addition, there is a new part of the building with a farm shop, kitchen, seminar and storage rooms.

Nevertheless, the Lingenhel organic farm has remained a family business. The two middle daughters Anna-Lena and Laura now work just as enthusiastically as Karl’s mother Hildegard, who especially loves working in the kitchen. Lisa, the eldest daughter, has taken up her mother’s profession: she is a master tailor at Trachten Moosbrugger (maker of traditional costumes) in Bezau. Their son Kevin, the youngest, is still at school.

The Lingenhels don’t do any marketing. Thanks to word of mouth for their courses and products, they can barely keep up with demand: “At some point, it becomes important to learn to say no,” admits Agathe. Despite their seemingly endless energy, they are both aware of the need to keep a reasonable balance: “Sometimes less is more,” she says. ” Having enough is a value that is generally underestimated today.” The two seem so calm and deliberate, so warm and reserved at the same time. It seems that living with the cycle of nature also makes their mental state more well-rounded: “As opposed to an endless ‘faster, higher, further attitude,’ you instead accept the cycle of nature rather than pushing against it, you end up with an easier life – not a harder one.” When the Lingenhels were presented with the CERES Award as “Organic Farmers of the Year” in Berlin in 2019, they were asked what was next: “We don’t know!” replied Agathe. “Some things are not ready yet, but we are satisfied. It is wonderful to work and to create things with what we have. The way things are suits us well.”

Author: Babette Karner
Issue: Bregenzerwald Travel Magazine – Summer 2021

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