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Josef W.

Josef Weber

by Horst B.

 

 

Interview with Josef W., farmer in the suburb of Mettenberg, Biberach

 

Josef W. was born in 1957. Two years ago, the agricultural master handed over his more than two hundred year old farm to his sons David and Philipp. He still helps on the mixed farm (cows, pigs, crops, meadows, orchards). However, decisions about the further development of the farm are made by his sons, one of whom is responsible for livestock farming, the other for the fields. Since 1989 the family has been engaged in organic farming and in 1990 they joined the Bioland marketing association. Josef Weber helps his wife Paula in the organic farm shop, he takes care of the offspring, the pigs and the vegetable field. He is politically active with the Greens and sits for them in the local council of Mettenberg, in the city council of Biberach and in the county council of the district of Biberach. He also plays in the Mettenberg brass band.

He has three sons, two daughters und nine grandchildren.

 

“Mr W., what have you been doing this morning?“

I got up at a quarter to six, drank coffee, read the paper. When it's my turn to milk, I'll read the paper afterwards. Today after reading I made the pigs, cattle and chickens. Afterwards I helped on the construction site, so I have breakfast later today. I am still fully occupied with the farm every day, although my wife and I gave up the farm two years ago. This happened because of a death in the family of my wife. Before that we managed three farms together with the son and my wife’s brother in a GbR (Gesellschaft bürgerlichen Rechts). The parental farm here in Mettenberg, a leased farm of the St. Elisabeth Foundation in Heggbach and a farm in Eichen. The question arose whether we should stop right away, because the second son had also entered agriculture.

We decided to hand over the entire farm. We still have the right of residence and a car, my wife runs the farm shop and I have a photovoltaic system and biogas plant. Therefore there are no financial worries and probably not in the future. The pension from 65 in agriculture is minimal and one could not live on it. However, a pension from the existing farm will be added and therefore we do not need to worry financially.

 

“What are your plans for today?“

I will still go to the construction site and help, because I am responsible for the construction, one of the sons is responsible for the cattle, the other for the agriculture. I also help in the farm shop. The fact that we run the farm as a family is a central element of the farm. Although I am no longer responsible and do not have to sign, I am still fully involved and can help.

 

“Do your children approach you as advisors, or do you want to make the decisions yourself?“

Decisions are and have been made by mutual agreement, even if you have to talk a lot to each other. This and the discussion of other problems happens every fortnight. Since every son has a family, you have to expect friction and we have already got help from outside. This coaching helped to look beyond the horizon and afterwards you could leave satisfied. The desire for this form of coaching came from all three of us, more from my sons than from me. It would be a pity if the community were to break up, so this form must be used.

 

„How did it work between your parents and you when you took over the farm?“

The father married late, so he was 65 when he handed over the farm to me as a young son. We also worked together and it was during this period that the decision was made to convert the farm to organic farming in 1989. However, this was not easy for my parents. The industry had a great influence on the cultivation with fertilizers, chemicals and in the animal sector at that time, which was a relief for my parents, because before they had to work hard by hand a lot. But it was not difficult for my father to hand over the farm, because his father was already 80 when he handed over the farm to him, shortly before his death. He had suffered terribly from it and therefore he swore to himself that this would not happen to him. I noticed this and told myself that it would not happen to me either. Often the women are the ones who suffer, because my mother also suffered from it because women did not have their own income.

 

“Did your wife come from farming too?“

Yes, but she never wanted to have anything to do with agriculture and was trained as a nurse at the Elisabethen Hospital in Ravensburg. We met at a ball of the rural youth and she knew my siblings from the secondary school in Biberach and so we got to know each other.

 

“Besides the newspaper, do you use any other media to get information?“

The daily newspaper is one part. I inform myself about other people's websites and write emails. We have both a website of the farm and a private one. This is because I once ran for the state parliament and therefore a website was necessary. The computer is taken for granted and I use it practically every day. I also have a smartphone to take pictures and to stay in contact. You can't do without it anymore. We have to call each other several times a day and this would not be possible otherwise.

 

“As a Green, how do you assess the current development in politics regarding the incidents in Thuringia, as well as in agriculture in general?“

For me, work and life are one, it belongs together. This includes dealing with nature, but also the social aspect and dealing with each other and with the farm animals.

Already during colonization, people took something from others for their own benefit and this is still going on today with the overexploitation of the world. This leads to disasters in these countries due to exploitation. Through technological progress they recognize this and it therefore leads to huge problems such as gaining a foothold for the right as in Thuringia. They fuel the fear of people who are not from our Christian culture. This is the consequence of our own behaviour and there would be a possibility to change this and help these countries. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The rights take advantage of this. This creates a serious enmity. I am therefore fighting for the ecological and social aspects to regain importance.

 

“How did your involvement in politics begin?“

When I was 22, 23 years old I was already in the local council in Mettenberg and this came from the Catholic rural youth in the deanery of Biberach. In our country it was called the „Green Circle“ of the rural youth and had nothing to do with the „Greens“ today. It was a great time and we were already thinking back then about how we could shape conventional agriculture in such a way that we could deal fairly with the consumer and make fair prices. It was about keeping greed within limits with the normal human mind. But unfortunately it did not succeed.

We then got married and switched to organic farming. The development of roads such as the B30 has made a big difference in the village: the fields have been reorganised and a lot of space has been lost due to sealing. This has hurt all the farmers. That's when we became really political in the village and we grew together into a large community, which still exists today. We tried to prevent the loss of valuable, healthy and living soil, because it is our livelihood. The first contacts with green politicians like Rezzo Schlauch, Winni Hermann, Elmar Braun and Boris Palmer came about and I became a member of the party (All the persons mentioned are members of the green party)

 

“What was at that time decisive for the formation of this attitude?“

My parents were not politically active, but my grandfather often told us children stories about the 1st World War. My father told me about World War II. We were strongly influenced by that. My mother had eight siblings, six of her brothers were in the war. They were and are a really good Christian family. This family was in the resistance in the Third Reich. A great uncle of mine had Primiz (priestly ordination) in 1916, hence the year 1916 in the front door. He was for some time in Dachau (concentration camp near Munich in the 3rd Reich) and told us about it. This made a deep impression on me, because these people opened their mouths and were therefore discriminated against and punished. It was a terrible time, the worst time for the older generation and we knew that something like that must never happen again. In addition, the responsibility for creation in agriculture has played a role in character building.

 

“Did school have an influence on this?“

School did not, rather the training in agriculture. First secondary school and vocational school, then the technical school and the training as a master farmer and the attendance of many courses of the farmers' association, although I am very critical of it. But this is how I learned a good debating culture, together with Wolfgang Reimer (agricultural engineer, member of the Greens, district president in Stuttgart since 2016), who was not yet a member of the Greens at that time. We founded the Arbeitskreis Bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (ABL), which has spread nationwide and where I was very active. That's how it all began.

 

“Can you recall a particularly important political event?“

With the ABL we were already thinking about the milk glut in the EEC (European Economic Community, forerunner of the EU) and we published articles about it in our magazine „Bauernstimme“ (voice of the farmer). That's why there were meetings with the then Minister Kiechle (Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Forestry from 1983 - 1993), which I will never forget because it was so great. We met in Berlin at the Green Week (trade fair for the food industry, agriculture, horticulture) to exchange ideas with others. The talks with Minister Kiechle were fruitful, but we could not prevent some regulations. We weren't opponents, but he considered some of our ideas and this was formative for me.

 

“How do you generally see the future of agriculture?“

At the moment there are still protests by farmers because of the EU regulations on nitrate levels. Too much liquid manure is still produced on large farms. There is still too much fertilisation, no consideration is given to the different soils and no selective action is taken. Instead, agriculture is treated equally and almost nothing has happened, except that the requirements have become more stringent. We have to think of the generations to come and we must not feed soya meal and fatten the animals. Feed is imported from twice as much arable land that we have in Germany, that is an absurdity! That is why I am fighting for the expansion of organic farming. This is the only way we will be able to secure global food supplies. Conventional agriculture with its high use of fertilisers is far too expensive, nobody else can afford it, except us western industrial farmers.

Last year we at the district level managed to designate our region as a model region for organic farming. There's a great job going on there. We talk to bakers, millers, we have a brewery on our hands and now it's time to go to the canteens for local supply, to make everything regional and ecological. We hope that this will have an impact on other farmers. My friend Roland Roth already said thirty years ago that it was five to twelve. Today he says it's almost 1:00. But I'm not giving up hope.

 

“Is there any time left for personal plans and ventures?“

Almost not, since we are so tightly clamped. We go away for a few days every now and then, but I don't want to either. I don't need cruises. I hate to whine about it. It does us good to be able to see other regions like Austria, Slovakia and the Baltic Sea. To compensate and to not always have to think I play the tuba in a brass band. There the conductor sets the beat and I can totally switch off for two hours. We have often made musical journeys with people who think differently than we do and that feels good.

 

“Have you ever thought about death?“

Absolutely! We learned this from our parents, because they always took us to the houses of deceased neighbours, friends. I can enumerate at least twenty houses where we as children were in the parlor where the deceased were laid out. We learned from it that death is a part of life. One sister died of cancer in the twelfth grade and this marks you for life. That's why you try to make the best out of life, because afterwards it's over. Our parents could die at home with their children and grandchildren. This was a great fortune. We try to pass this on.

 

“Have you made any provision in your will or otherwise?“

No, not at all. But maybe we should think about how you want to be buried, which should be my last wish. I can laugh about it, though. With the handover of the farm the children are provided for and are on a good way.

 

“If you met God at the end, what would you tell him?“

Since we have grown up and been influenced by the Catholic church, we hope that this will bring us into contact. I would say that you have everything in your hands and that you could keep a bit of a lid on things so that people get along better. That they live more rationally so that they do not have to experience bitter suffering in the world. I'd say, “Come on. Take a bite. You can do it“