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Agriculture and rural development

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"Family holidays and quality agri-food products"

Michael Hofmann (LEADER Oberes Altmühltal-Mittelfranken, Germany)

In the upper valley of the Altmühl (Bavaria), it is agriculture that predominates, employing 14% of the working population. Milk, pigmeat and beef productions make up the main sources of income of the 2 000 or so local farmers. Since 1991, the LEADER group of Middle Franconia and an association of inhabitants and farmers ("EPIG") have been implementing a series of rural development actions primarily geared towards agri-tourism and the marketing of quality beef.

Family holidays

At the initiative of five families of farmers eager to diversify their activity, the 70 inhabitants of Lauterbach created a "Village Community" and turned the place into a real "family holiday village";

  • 13 quality rural cottages were opened between 1993 and 1996;
  • a programme of weekly activities was organised beginning in 1992 (meetings, games and manual activities for children; "Pirates' Day" for which children make their own costume; barbecues organised by and for the parents; carriage rides, tours of a brewery, etc.);
  • 1993 saw the building of a play area and the fitting out of two multipurpose rooms;
  • in 1995, a pond was developed (public lavatories, point of sale of local farm products) and a cycling trail was created.

The village also installed a sewage system based on lagooning.

Lauterbach is now attracting numerous visitors, and the tourist activity has generated jobs, particularly for the farmers' spouses.

Quality meat

One of the major objectives of the LEADER I programme of Middle Franconia was also to gradually reduce intensive agriculture and change over to extensive livestock farming. A group of 60 farmers formed an association, WFG ("Weidefleisch Franken GmbH & Co. KG" / Grazing meat from Franconia). Relying on Angus and Limousin grazing cows raised according to specific criteria ,WFG markets quality beef, essentially in short distribution channels. The "Franki" label has been created, close links exist with several major customers (hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, etc.), and a number of private households directly buy from the farmers.

Road market

Begun in the framework of LEADER I, these actions to support agri-tourism and quality agricultural production are continuing in the framework of LEADER II and have found their place in the "Bäuerlicher Rastmarkt Obere Altmühl" project which has consisted in setting up a "Road Market of Agricultural Producers of Upper Altmühl" at a rest area on the A6/E50 motorway between Nuremberg and Vienna, one of the most heavily travelled roads of Europe. The two buildings together form a 500 m2 covered market where local agri-food products are sold. There is also a restaurant offering culinary specialities of the region, a tourist point of information and a 30-room hotel. This ECU 5-million project, financed in the framework of the LEADER programmes and Objective 5b, has been run by a company created by 30 investors primarily from the local agricultural sector.

Officially inaugurated in September 1997, this complex is the "showcase" of the region and constitutes an excellent sales outlet for farmers and local agri-tourist operators while creating between 50 and 60 jobs in a relatively disadvantaged rural area.

source: LEADER Magazine nr.15 - Summer 1997

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