On Saturday morning we said goodbye to Rhineland and Andrea, our host. We took the train south to Freiburg along the Rhine River.
The portion of the ride along the river offered spectacular views. There are many small villages and castle's along the river. There are also many vineyards that seem impossible to utilize on the extreme slope.
We arrived in Freiburg and were greeted by our new host, Thomas Huschle. Thomas took us a small distance into the Black Forest to "Heinehof" the farm of Valentin Sonner. Mr. Sonner and his family operate a farm that has been in the family for over 200 years. Mr. Sonner has 12 hectare or 30 acres on his home farm. This land is mostly pasture and trees in the forest hills. He raises cattle and geese on his land. He rents an additional 58 hectares in the valley for producing crops.
Mr. Sonner explained that it is difficult to earn a living on his small acreage. He and his family opened a restaurant on the farm 25 years ago. They serve only products they grow on the farm. They also offer a place in the Forest for families to eat that is quiet and has wonderful views. Mr. Sonner explained that the restaurant has allowed his family to stay on the farm. We had a very nice dinner on the farm that evening.
The hills have an extreme slope and one wonders how the animals do not roll off the hillside while grazing. Mr. Sonner explained the farmer is responsible for maintaining and trimming the hills. If the livestock do not keep the brush down the farmer is expected to trim and maintain. If the government checks your farm and there is brush or trees growing, the farmer will lose his subsidy payment for those acres. That is a large incentive to keep the hills groomed.
On Sunday we headed further into the Black Forest. We had a very nice drive to the town of Furtwangen. There we stopped at the German clock museum. The museum gave the full history from sundials to modern clocks.
They had examples of the earliest clocks using ropes and rocks to pocket watches. There is a long history of high quality wooden clocks made in the Black Forest. There was also a small car show and farmers market downtown.
We then made our way to a small cafe and had some delicious home made desserts and coffee. One item we have not lacked on this trip is dessert! Everyone who has hosted us is very gracious and provides excellent dessert and coffee.
Our next stop was the winery of Andreas Ambs. Andreas and his family operate a winery just
west of Freiburg. They built a new facility in 2001 as they had outgrown the old one in town. The winery produces 200,000 bottles a year. They produce 30% red wines and 70% white wine. They pick 50% of the grapes by hand and 50% by machine.
Andreas explained how they rotate replacing vines on the farm. They replace +/- a hectare a year as vines take 3 years to produce grapes and the grapes are best at 7 years. Vines will be productive for 30-35 years.
Andreas provided a large meat and cheese tray for dinner along with wine tasting. This tray was
prepared by the local butcher offering many different salami, bologna, sausage and cheeses. We were fortunate to have Young Farmers Benny and Victor join us for dinner.
Benny lives on a dairy farm on the east side of the Black Forest. He has studied in Nebraska. Victor was also from a winery located about 10 miles away. We had a good discussion about farm subsidies, opportunities and challenges in the different farming generations and GMO's. It was a great conversation and we appreciate Thomas, Andreas, Benny and Victor for taking the time to meet with us.
Tomorrow we will be heading to a farm in France and Thomas's home farm.