Germany- Day 19
The last day of farm tours took us first to a farm that grows sugar beets as well as seed for other farmers. They have 205 hectares (62 ha sugar beets, 103 ha winter wheat, 21 ha winter barley, 13 ha summer barley and 6 ha set aside). Their sugar beet production is much larger than other farms in the area that are typically 10 hectares. They farm about 100 km from the sugar beet processing plant and have a unique system for harvesting. They share a harvester owned by the processor, with 40 other farmers. Their “turn” to harvest is determined in the the spring so they know exactly when they will be harvesting beets. The farm is located inside the city limits of Frankfurt Main; it is all rented land from foundations that had been established centuries ago; the family is the 6th generation on the land. They produce seed for cooperatives to sell to other farmers and own all the equipment for storing, cleaning and processing all of the seed on their property. We did a quick walk to one of the fields that had mustard which is used as a cover crop to reduce nematodes on ground that will be sown to sugar beets next year.
They noted that they have a concern with urban growth being so close to a large metropolitan city; but the concern is not with houses, its with the regulations. For example, the airport needs to expand an additional runway. In order for it to grow the airport must also have a biological offset for the amount of land used for the runway. To complicate matters worse the city of Frankfurt has determined that the biological offset must be in Frankfurt, so by default farm land ends up being taken out of production.
We then were hosted at Rentenbank, a agricultural lender similar to our Farm Credit banks. They were established by law in the late 40s to promote agribusiness and rural areas. The basis for the bank’s capital was contributions paid by the German ag and forestry sector between 1949 and 1958. Today they are the premier ag lending agency of Germany; they now raise funds globally and distribute them locally. The bank is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which then allows them to issue global bonds internationally. Their loans focus on four key areas: agriculture, aquaculture & fisheries, agribusiness and renewable energies. An underlying loan category in all these areas is innovation. They believe strongly in their farmers ideas and use the innovation loans to help move agriculture forward.
They have a unique way they distribute their loans. Rather than having personal banking locations and a staff of loan officers, they utilize their local banks and allow them to write the loans for a commission. This allows the local bank to provide farmers access to low interest loans and does not put them into a competitive arena with a home bank. Last year they made a net profit of 11.8 million €, half was distributed to a special purpose fund that promoted innovation loans and the other half was put toward a promotional fund that supports individual projects as well as institutions working for the ag sector and rural areas.
We spent the afternoon in Frankfurt walking the city and toured the Goethe House that was the family residence of the Goethe family, most notably Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, until 1795. Goethe is one of the most popular poets of Germany writing The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) as well as laying the foundations for his celebrated interpretation of Faust.
We ended the evening in a cider pub enjoying a traditional krautwickel, pork wrapped in a cabbage leaf that is cooked and served with a bacon sauce, and trying some apfelwein a traditional German cider well-known in Frankfurt.