Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day 19 - Thursday, October 13

We began the morning by visiting only the second pig farm on the trip, we found this a little amusing because when you're in a country that eats as much pork as the Germans you think you might see a few more hog operations.  This farm was another family operation that was well diversified in different ag ventures.  They had 100 sows and 350 feeder pigs; the sows are only in crates for a short time prior to farrowing and until the pigs are weaned.  Other than that they are group housed and have access to the outside; this was a law that was passed by the EU.  In the mid 90s, hog prices were at a low, the family decided one way to improve their prices was to begin direct marketing.  So, they opened a sausage shop, that included an on farm slaughter and processing facility.  They sell a wide varitey of home made and smoked meats, sausages and wurst; and slaughter a few head a week, selling about 10% directly to consumers.  They operate under the same EU standards as a larger processor.  In addition to the meats, they also sell locally grown foods, wines, potatoes, jams, pastas and breads.
They also are part of a partnership with two other farmers, sharing equipment on their farm ground.  The family has 240 hectacres spread over 85 fields, with the largest being 20 hectacres.  In the past, land was divided over and over between heirs, this created separate plots of land.  More recently there has been a movement to consolidate these lands, but it takes cooperation with the local community.  They grow silage, barley, wheat and potatoes. The partnership is also shared with a biogas plant that uses slurry from the pigs and another farmer's cattle as well as silage and straw.
Following our tour we enjoyed samples of their products, one that tasted very reminiscent of the German sausage my family makes in Iowa.
We stopped briefly in the city of Bad Nauheim, so we could see the home that Elvis lived in when he was stationed in Germany during the war.  We also found a memorial at another location where he had stayed.  This made Tracy very happy as she is a big Elvis fan.
We then traveled north to meet with their forest service.  The forest is important in Germany historically, it provided wood, lumber, charcoal, mushrooms,fruits and the orignal means for raising pigs.  Today 30% of Germany is forest (the state of Hessen is 42%), while 200 years ago over use had the forest down to only 10%.  Today they have what they call permanent forests, no clear cutting wood, they use a thinning process to harvest trees from the forest.  In Hessen 85% of the forest is public owned with 15% held privately; last year they harvested and marketed 120,000 cubic meters for about 7-8 million €.  This provides about 85% of the forest budget.  The trees are used for: 40% saw mills, 40% paper, industrial and pressed board, and, 20% firewood.  The trees are tradionally beech forests, today they are 40% beech, 60% spruce and pine wood.  The service is planting more trees from warmer cliamates in fear and preparation of climate change.
We talked some about renewable energy because the Hessen government has required that wind power first be put on forest lands to shield the wind towers from view. We learned about a complicated system that I'm trying to find more information about.  It takes approximately half a hectacre for a windmill, this must be compensated by planting new forest or buying ecopoints.  An ecopoint, is a forest conversion formula that rates ecological values in the point system. i.e. Because of the volume of wood removed, if you clear cut a half acre for a windmill, you may need to plant 2 acres to equate the volume of young trees with the number of old. It sounded like a system that would routinely eat usable arable land.  I found it odd that a wind turbine did not have an equal ecopoint system because it should offset the use of carbon based fuel.
We ended the day walking around Marburg, an old university city and the first protestant university and a site where Martin Luther and others in the reformation began. We walked up a very steep hill on shaky cobblestone; we walked so high up the hill, you could swear you we a little closer to heaven.  We dined that evening in Marburg and celebrated our fellow McCloy, Katherine's birthday.

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