At the Schäfer family farm, generations work hand in hand for a secure future.
The agricultural sector is often subject to public debate, covering prices, the environment and animal welfare. Many of these debates are characterised by superficial knowledge and a lack of awareness of the real situation on the farms. The Verbücheln family, for example, is actively tackling this issue; they run their own farm and are actively committed to public relations work. This starts with the digital world. On their homepage, the family invites users to visit the farm.
In 2012 a new cowshed was built as well as a rotary milking parlour with 40 spaces. This cowshed was also ultimately the trigger for actively organising farm tours for groups. That’s because numerous requests were received from the area to see the new cowshed. The Verbücheln family used this opportunity and combined interest in the farm with an information and entertainment programme. A café was set up in the old pigsty and Waltraud Verbücheln can indulge in her passion here. “With the other farming ladies, I have been able to further expand on this hobby and turned it into a baking service five years ago,” she explains, beaming with joy. Today, her café is the starting point for the farm tours. While enjoying delicious cake or a coffee, visitors can get their first impression of the farm inhabitants – the cows graze on the pasture right in front of the café.
Many of the young calves are allowed to graze on the pasture and, so that they learn how to behave themselves, experienced dairy cows are also brought onto the field during the first few days. “The young animals quickly learn from the experienced cows,” says Rainer Verbücheln on the reasons for the mixed group. The animals (almost) listen to herd manager Benedikt Verbücheln’s every word. When the oldest son of Rainer and Waltraud Verbücheln calls them, the cows come from all directions – some at a brisk gallop, others at a comfortable amble. “After all, every cow has her own personality. You can see this already in the first few months,” Benedikt Verbücheln adds. “And they are curious. All of them, without exception.”
Over an hour and a half, visitor groups receive information all about modern agriculture. Naturally, there is also time for questions and critical comments, as the Verbücheln family can report. “We were prepared for that and if we are honest, that was one of our motivations for starting the tours,” Waltraud and Rainer Verbücheln reveal. “We can take our time on the farm to explain many things and help contribute to an improved understanding of agriculture.”
The family also covers the life of a cow through to slaughter. “This is part of what transparency means,” Rainer Verbücheln continues. “Our animals are slaughtered after their active lifetime and processed into meat and sausages.” Programmes like the tours by the Verbücheln family can reduce preconceptions and even dispel them altogether. They also result in a much greater level of understanding about where our food comes from.