- EIP-AGRI Projects
- Focus groups
|Geographical scope|| |
The Operational Group Biogemüse in Northern Hesse (Germany) identified a growing demand for fresh organic vegetables, but there was a lack of local produce available. At the same time the rural population was falling steadily and there was a low number of jobs which affected vulnerable population groups in particular. This gave rise to the idea to implement a project to create jobs for people with disabilities within a regional value chain for organically grown vegetables.
“In the past 40 years there has been an increasing demand for vegetables in Germany to a point where the demand has exceeded supply and led to shortages.” – says Tim Treis from Ruhlengut, “In Northern Hesse this issue was particularly significant, local suppliers had not yet entered into the market for fresh organic vegetables due to various difficulties with regard to the climate, availability of seasonal workers, cultivation methods and processing and marketing structures.” At the same time, Northern Hesse was suffering from falling population numbers and lack of local jobs. Hephata Diakonie, a non-profit association providing support and professional training to vulnerable groups, was struggling to find jobs for the people involved in their organisation. Hephata Diakonie was looking for interesting and suitable jobs for the people with disabilities who were attending their professional workshops.
So they teamed up with Treis Agrarkonzept, 3 agricultural companies and an organic processing firm to create an Operational Group (OG) which could find a solution to both local issues; establish a regional value chain and create jobs in the food retail and catering sectors for fresh local vegetables, adding value for agricultural businesses in the area.
“Vegetables are usually grown in nurseries, but this type of infrastructure is not greatly available in Northern Hesse, so one of the innovative aspects to this project was that we proposed to integrate the cultivation of these vegetables into the crop rotation.” – Judith Treis from Treis Agrarkonzept. The project aimed to implement various innovative concepts in the production chain and analyse/improve them according to their suitability and feasibility in practice. These included the developing an advisory module for farmers, cultivation of site-adapted species, specific training and job creation for people with disabilities.
On the 3 farms involved in the partnership, the vegetables tested were salads, pumpkin and fennel, all suitable for the climate in the region. The particular challenge was to overcome barriers linked to the short shelf life of these products and particularly with regards to their cultivation within the crop rotation.
To begin the project, the partners determined the requirements for the cultivation, processing and marketing of the vegetables. Partners also designed the practical cultivation trials and processing tests. Over a period of 2 years, these practical tests were implemented and evaluated. The project ended with a phase of results optimisation and looking into marketing elements.
“As an OG, we were very focused on ‘peer learning’ as a form of learning from and with colleagues in the practical field, eg. through company visits and ‘collegial or mutual advice’. In addition, the common strategy of ‘learning by doing’ was applied in the implementation of the project content and supplemented by professional technical input from associated partners.” - Judith Treis. The solutions developed were improved by strong communication between all links within the value chain, helping to narrow the gap between consumers and farmers and acting as an engine for creating a sustainable agricultural system.
Through the project, 8 workplaces have been created for people with disabilities. The work in the processing of vegetables is a popular job because it is experienced as meaningful and the results of the work are immediately visible. Pumpkins are stored in the workshop for people with disabilities and then always freshly prepared after ordering from the food retailer. In addition, vegetables are pre-processed for large kitchens so that the chefs can prepare the dishes more quickly. The value chains tested during the project are now continuing independently.
The methods developed through this project could also be useful for future production of other crops. The OG Biogemüse has been working with other OGs in Germany to share ideas. Furthermore, the OG participated in international events including a meeting in 2018 of the EIP-AGRI Focus Group ‘Non-chemical weed management in arable cropping systems’ and ‘NetworX - Inspiring Rural Europe’ in 2019.
Contact person: Judith Treis Judithemail@example.com
Photos from the project