An Appleyear | Edition 4 – March 2019

We are meeting Karin Lafer and today they are planting their new trees. The whole family is involved and in addition there are some helping hands.

EVA-Apples: Karin, we are here today to join you planting some new Fengapi/Tessa trees. Please let us know what do you have to do and consider when planting the trees?

Karin: Of course there are many different systems and methods. As we do not own a planting-machine, we had to borrow one from my colleague Stefan Haberl. He is driving with his tractor and is tilling a small trench. In this ditch we are then arranging the trees. Once the trees have been placed, we are covering them with soil and tramp it in. To be sure that the trees are not snapping, they are adjusted with a “tree-bail” on a continuous wire framework.

EVA-Apples: How are you organizing the division of work between your family and your harvest hands and how is your workday looking like?

Karin: First I need to acknowledge that I’m more than thankful for the help of my parents. Their active support is absolutely priceless. We usually quickly find a common way of how to split work. In general we group up before work, go through the major tasks, manage organizational matters and then we are starting right away. The organization of the harvest hands is my task. They are mainly from Romania and only speaking English and hardly any German. Because of that I’m their main person of contact and instruct them. Today we started at 0700 and we knew that it’s going to be a very long and exhausting day. We are working one row after the other. To finish one row it takes about one hour. After that we make a short break and drink something. At noon we of course are taking a longer break to have decent lunch. Highly motivated and with new power we are starting into the afternoon session and hope that we will finish everything until the evening.

EVA-Apples: The planting of trees is an enormous investment. Please tell us what the average costs of a tree are and how many trees to you need to plant/buy for one hectare?

Karin: That of course depends on the variety and the quality of the raw material which has been ordered. For one hectare we need around 3.000 to 3.500 trees. The costs of the trees vary from 5,30 € up to 8,20 €. The higher the quality of the young plants, the higher the costs are.

EVA-Apples: …and then you also have to pay costs for labor and machinery. Is there any chance you can break down the total costs per tree? So, can you tell what it totally costs you to plant one tree?

Karin: There are the costs only for the trees, as I have told you. Then we have the costs for machinery (planting machinery, tractors, etc.), framework material (wires, tree bails, etc.) and the costs of our labor and the labor of our harvesting hands. Plus we have the preparatory works like stretching the plant framework, marking the distance of the trees and digging the ditches which are also considerable costs you need to keep in mind. As there are some many different and variable amounts it’s impossible to put it down to the costs of one single tree.

Planting Trees

EVA Apples: On top of that I would be keen to know if you can estimate how much you need to invest until you have the first decent crop yield. How long does it take anyway until the trees have their first crop and how long do you have a trees in average?

 Karin: This is a good questions but difficult to answer. Crop protection of course starts in the first year, all other measurements like opening of the hail nets, mulching, fertilizing also have to be done. In my opinion we are more or less having 100% costs from the first day of planting but I can’t give you any solid figures. In my estimation it’s around 12.000 € up to 17.000 € per year and hectare. In regard of your second questions; it depends on the quality of the young trees. If the quality of the tree is good, we can have the first small harvest already in the 2nd year. Anyway with the 3rd or 4th year the trees should have a full crop. Depending on the quality and the variety we have the trees for about 15-20 years in our orchard.

EVA Apples: How and where are you ordering the trees which will be shipped to you?

Karin: This depends on the variety. There are many excellent tree farms in Austria. If you order there, every producer can order for themselves and can choose shipment or self-pick up. The trees we are planting today on the other hand are trees from the tree farm FENO in Italy. Here our group organized the transport for all producers who are going to plant and ordered this variety.

EVA Apples: How quickly do you need to plant the trees and how important is it that the trees are immediately getting supplied with water?

Karin: It is of huge importance that the trees are not put away for too long and the roots are drying out. Because of that the immediately need to be planted and covered with soil. The soil needs to be tramped down. We are watering the plants with plentiful water.

EVA Apples: Are there any quality checks you need to do once the young trees are arriving? What kind of impact could a physical damage cause in the long run?

Karin: Of course we are doing a quality check on arrival of the trees. There are one year old branched trees or two year old “Knip-trees” with various numbers of sprouts. These need to have a certain length and can be measured by a scaling system (5+ or 7+). Of course there can physical damages wherefore we are doing a decent quality check. On the other hand it needs to be practical. The planting of trees is a long term project. You are ordering trees and are clearing the orchard. A tree is a natural “product” wherefore there always will be some irregularities with the plants.

EVA Apples: Once the trees are planted it’s important that they have an immediate water supply. You are using your installed irrigation system. How do producers without irrigation system have to deal with watering of plants, respectively how have you done this before you had installed your irrigation system?

Karin: Water is one of the most important facts for the young trees. As you said we are using our irrigation system which safes us a lot of time and work. All others, without irrigation system need to water their trees regularly in order the roots are constantly wet and can start to grow.

EVA Apples: Are there damages or illnesses which can occur in the first years? Are the tree farmers giving some kind of guarantee?

Karin: A tree is a natural product, grown in nature. Because of that there can always occur damage, for examples can hail cause some serious damages. Also the weather conditions are uncontrollable, for which reason no one can give guarantees. For me as a producer any kind of damage is a problem. But in most cases your hands are tied as the planting of the trees has already been done. So overall you don’t have many alternatives than to accept the weaker quality. The only option is to renegotiate the price with the seller of the trees.

Planting trees harvest hands

EVA Apples: Karin, thank you and your family very much for your time. It was very exciting to join you today. We hope that your trees will develop well and that you have decided for the right variety. At the end I would like to invite you to ask your question to us.

Karin: Thank you. Lately I have been ready some reports about the new brand “Red Hills”. What is this all about and what are your expectations?

EVA Apples: Well EVA is presented on the international market with the brands EVA and EVA Prime. It has been our goal already 2 years ago to establish a second brand with a strong and unique regional character. We were looking for criteria with a strong differentiation potential. There are many regions in Europe and to be very fair every region has something to offer. In Styria we have the Styrian Vulcano land, which is an absolutely unique region in Europe. With the “Steirisches Vulkanland” there is already an initiative which takes care of this special region. We were very fortunate to start our common cooperation with the initiative. Once we have closed our cooperation we have set up our brand “Red Hills” which is a very emotional brand with a strong regional aspect. We are now trying – step by step – to slowly establish this brand on the international market. We at EVA are extremely enthusiastic and hope that also our clients will like the story about this unique region and also our very dynamic design.