About felling trees and looking forward to new life
Lots of enthusiasm for a glorious future
Thomas Spechtenhauser „Stoanhof“ farm in Cengles
Thomas Spechtenhauser is one of the inhabitants of Cengles, a small village belonging to the municipality of Lasa. While the main place of Lasa is known all over the world for its hard, weather-resistant marble, Cengles is quite unknown. Hardly any South Tyrolean would be able to indicate the geographic position of this place on the homonymous alluvial fan.
The inhabitants of Cengles are masters of understatement and Thomas is one of them. He knows what he has achieved but he does not have to blare it out. He has no airs and graces even though his „Stoanhof“ farm is situated at just a few meters from Tschenglsburg Castles and sits enthroned above the Lasa Valley while most of his orchards are in the fertile valley floor. His readiness to take risks and zest for action have contributed a lot to his success in apple production. He has also been successful thanks to varietal diversity, which he had already known when his family sold cauliflower, beetroot, celery and a special kind of summer radicchio to save money for investing in the cultivation of the first Jonagold apples. That was back in 1988. The first Golden apples followed ten years later and then Royal Gala apples as well.
„Today I dream of Ambrosia, a Canadian.“ His wife is not jealous, because beautiful Ambrosia will not substitute her but some of his traditional apples. This variety has already shown good results at similar altitudes according to the South Tyrolean Advisory Service for Fruit Production and Winegrowing, the Laimburg Research Center and his cooperative. „Here in Cengles, we would like to grow more new varieties, if only we weren’t so restricted by the climate. There is the risk of night frost for late varieties such as Envy™, Fuji or yello®. We need varieties that we can harvest before the first cold nights.” The apple producers of Cengles are venturesome but not reckless. Because Thomas knows well what happens to frozen fruits: they break. „Apples aren’t made of marble but this is why they are so delicious,“ smiles Thomas.
To start his new adventure with Ambrosia apples Thomas felled the Golden Delicious trees in one of his apple orchards immediately after the harvest during the last weeks in October. This is hard work and includes sawing the stems, removing the rootstocks and storing the new firewood. Felling trees is the first step for new life and the beginning of a new phase in the strategic planning of the Stoanhof’s future.
„The trees that I have just felled are hardly 15 years old. I could have kept them for some time. They still brought good fruits but…“ He suddenly interrupts himself, as if he didn’t know what to say. Soon it is obvious that he feels the urge to try something new. Thomas admits that also a tree that is more than 20 years old can bring sufficient results if it is well-groomed and cut and without any excessive foliage… but… just sufficient results. The word „but“ is firmly anchored in Thomas’ vocabulary. It is a synonym for „I simply want to do it, I want to try something new even if there are a some reasons for staying with what works well.“ But there are thousand reasons to plant a new variety. „It’s a fact that young trees offer a fruit quality that older trees can no longer guarantee and moreover the consumer behavior has changed. Consumers want to try new varieties, also because their expectations in taste have changed.“ Thomas wants to be prepared for the future. He leaves his comfort zone and continuously looks for new challenges.
Quality comes first for Thomas. He guarantees high quality with the help of integrated production that – in his view – will move more and more towards natural and sustainable production. „The boundaries between the two production methods, integrated and organic farming, will become more fluid“, says Thomas. Thanks to his open-mindedness he does not exclude that he might convert to organic one day. „Let's see how everything goes.“
As he’s very impartial, he always wants to be up to date. He thus takes part in educational trips and trade fairs. At the beginning of April, he wants to plant app. 4,500 new Ambrosia trees in his orchard. A project that is the result of a long mental process. It’s sort of another important moment in the history of his Stoanhof farm. „The orchard is ready, spring can come. The new trees can look forward to a wonderful location.“ The pleasure of anticipation is great. In the meantime, Thomas has enough wood for the winter months. Drop irrigation is ready and over-crown irrigation is prepared as well in the future Ambrosia orchard. Moreover, high pillars are firmly anchored in the ground to have all options open for a hail protection system because Thomas might protect his new trees with a hail net. In the end, he has invested much time in his new love, both mentally and physically. There will still be a lot of work to do until he can call the sweet Canadian variety with red cheeks his own and taste it. As said before, the pleasure of anticipation is great.