Saturday, October 1, 2011

Day 7 - Saturday, October 1

We started our day at a dairy (creamery) that was started in 2001 processing organic milk products.  Organic products are classified within six different organic (or Bio) standards, they represent 5-10% of food industry and grow 2-5% annually.  The dairy depends on 100 farmers to deliver fresh milk, processing 100,000 liters per day.  All of their organic standards are set higher than the national organic standard set by the EU. The dairy makes butter, yogurt, curd cheese and fresh milk.  They also have some high-milk products which conform to a higher organic standard, such as the cows are not fed corn silage. This gives the milk a different flavor and texture.  The dairy also has its own cheese making facility, where the cheese ripens from 3-4 weeks up to 3-6 months depending on the type. The room we saw had capacity for 16,000 cheese wheels and the facility could hold 35,000 total.  Each wheel is 4.5 kilos and it takes 10-11 liters of milk to produce 1 kilo of cheese.
We found out one interesting note, the farmers may (at the discretion of their veterinarian, as a last resort) use anitibiotics on their cows certified organic.  I think this is an improtant recognition that the role antibiotics do play in helping sick animals get well.  It also aids the animal in getting well without having to suffer.
Next we visited a cooperative farm, which was a former collective farm of the GDR (East Germany). The farm is managed by a part owner named Henrik Wedorff, who has been a past McCloy Fellow and been with us throughout Brandenburg.  Henrik was born in the GDR and drove a tank when he was in the military, he bought into the farm in 1997 and is a big soccer (foosball) fan, infact the farm sponsors the local soccer team.  The farm is 1000 hectacres and is 20 years old (since the fall of the Wall).  The farm corporation started in 1991 with five people and even ownership. The starting capital was 40,000€.  Henrick bought into the farm in 1997, buying out one of the original owners.  Today there are three retired owners, one owner still working on the farm and Henrick.  As the manager, he is in charge of all decisions on the farm and provides an annual business report to the other members. They made 200,000€ profit last year. 15,000€ was returned to owners as dividends and 185,000€ was reinvested in the farm.  The farm also began only leasing land and now owns 400 hectacres. 
In 2001 they converted their production to become an organic farm, also conforming above EU standards.  They are part of the BIOLAND, organic brand.  He showed us the process to protect themselves when they harvest.  When the grain is put on a truck, a sample is taken, labeled with the truck and harvest number, then sealed in a tamper proof bag.  The truck is then sealed with a tag also to prevent tampering before it is sent to the processor.  This protects the farm and provides them with evidence if a future processor makes a claim that their grain has become contaminated.
Henrik also showed us their extensive animal id system, which is a lot of work, but he feels you also benefit from the ability to track individual animals.  The passport system is not unlike a purebred registry and paper transfer.  The difference is the government oversight and penalties, which can be strict, even if a calf loses a tag inadvertently.  With all the farm, he spends 50% of his work day doing computer work.  In all they have eight employees, 350 mother cows, 500 cattle total; 1,000 hectacres of mostly rye and pasture with the largest cultivated field 150 hectacres.
We ended the day by attending (with 60,000 others) the Hertha BSC foosball match (soccer).  Hertha BSC's colors are blue and white; they are a team in the highest level league within Germany.  They played Cologne, one of their rivals and won 3-nil!

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