The heritage farm beneath the castle
Shaping the future with the power of the past
Only ten minutes on foot separate the Bauhof heritage farm from Castelbello Castle in Lower Val Venosta. While the castle picturesquely sits enthroned on a large rock on the orographic left bank of the Adige river, the Bauhof heritage farm is situated on the right bank of the river. A small bridge connects both river banks today as in the Middle Ages, when employees of clerical or secular big landowners cultivated fruit and vegetables for sale at the Bauhof, whereas animal husbandry was only for own consumption. The noble lords of Castelbello owned the farm as so-called ministerials of the Counts of Tyrol for a long time. In 1788, Philipp Linser took the Bauhof farm on lease and acquired it by purchase with his wife Maria Jenewein ten years later.
Today, more than 200 years after this acquisition and 7 generations later, the farm is still owned by the Linser family cultivating crunchy Val Venosta apples. Stefan Linser took over the farm from his father Erich in 1991 who had run it since 1963. The Bauhof farm in Castelbello has been able to boast the noble eagle sign and the certificate of a heritage farm awarded by the government of the province of South Tyrol since 1988. The Bauhof farm can call itself a heritage farm because it had been owned by the same family without interruption for 200 years, because it was a so-called closed farm and because the owners had always lived and worked there. These conditions have to be met to become a heritage farm and get the heritage farm sign with the Tyrolean eagle.
“200 years ago, our ancestors only cultivated apples for own consumption. The knowledge about cultivation methods and different varieties was guarded in the monasteries for a long time. Our ancestors only founded the first cooperatives towards the end of the 19th century and we people from South Tyrol have been self-employed experts of this healthy fruit since then,“ explains Stefan proudly pointing to the fact that his family has loved apples for more than 100 years and has more and more dedicated itself to growing them. Stefan and his father Erich have dedicated the majority of their professional lives to the apple, which has become their families’ livelihood. The historic moment for a specialization in Golden Delicious and other varieties had come and the Bauhof heritage farm took the opportunity.
“The ideal climatic conditions of alpine Val Venosta as a perfect habitat for apples are obvious. The valley is predestined for the cultivation of apples. Cultivating something else here would mean committing sacrilege,“ laughs Stefan dreaming of the future of Val Venosta’s agriculture.
Owned by the same family for over 200 years without interruption speaks for the necessary perseverance and tenacity of the Linser family, especially in times when it was far from easy to live on agriculture. Moreover, the Bauhof heritage farm was hit by a stroke of fate when a fire destroyed the farm at the end of the 19th century. Proof thereof is the partially saved wooden statue of St John in the corridor. The family coat of arms depicts a bear rearing up and reveals quite a bit about the perseverance of the Bauhof’s owners who distinguished themselves by many knightly virtues. “My grandfather often allowed vagabonds and beggars to sleep in the barn’s hayloft. They only had to give him their matches for security reasons,“ remembers Stefan nostalgically thinking of his grandfather’s stories: how it came to the marriage of his grandparents brokered by a farmer from the neighboring village or how his father Erich became the owner of the farm, even though he wasn’t the oldest son. His older brother had fallen in the war and so Erich had to assume responsibility.
The Bauhof farm shares its long heritage farm tradition with more than 1,400 other South Tyrolean farmer families who all own this special title with the heritage farm sign and the certificate. Both show the red Tyrolean eagle from 1370 depicted on the altar of Tyrol Castle’s chapel.
“Heritage farms have always been a home for extended families and many other people living at the farm. Today, the Bauhof farm is the home of our son Rene Daniel, his wife and his two children. Rene Daniel attended the agricultural school, as did I, and will continue our tradition.“ A tradition that has to be honored because Rene Daniel’s great grandfather was a founding member of the Castelbello cooperative at a time when apples were packed in wood wool and transported to Russia by train. Because Val Venosta’s apples were already sought after more than 100 years ago.
The responsible farmer tradition of the Linser family started more than 200 years ago with crop cultivation and animal husbandry before they passionately began to dedicate themselves to apples a few decades ago. The truly sustainable attitude in Europe’s highest apple cultivation area offers best conditions for loyal adherence to the inherited agricultural property, as say the awe-inspiring words on the South Tyrolean heritage farm certificate. The passion for food has always been passed on uninterruptedly within the Linser family.
“The memories and efforts of the present and past generations are a better proof than any paper certificate, which is also confirmed by the old wooden wine press in the cellar. I’m nonetheless proud to own this certificate as it constitutes a great motivation,“ says Stefan of the Bauhof farm in Castelbello, the heritage farm beneath the castle.