On new old paths: Farmer Simone Neuner
At the entrance to the Gaistal valley, the Wirtseppelerhof is nestled in the idyllic landscape. The charisma of the farm has a magical attraction. A few years ago, Simone and Matthias Neuner never dreamed that they would once run the farm like this. Today, Simone is a passionate organic farmer and preserves old knowledge about herbs.
Running the farm as a full-time business was never actually Simone’s or Matthias’s plan. Simone originally studied business informatics and when she met Matthias during her studies, she wasn’t so aware that he had an agriculture that she would one day take over. But life sometimes plays a trick on you, and so Simone became a herb teacher, potato farmer, farm shop owner, hostess, mother of two and a girl for just about everything.
The great-granny knew better
It was her great-grandmother who once taught her her love for the herbs. She had an almost infinite knowledge of the power of nature. “That has been lost over the generations,” Simone regrets. She has regained this knowledge and strives to preserve and pass it on. In the summer she can be found for hours in her herb garden, planting, weeding or harvesting. And when she is not there, she is in the farm shop, in the stable, on the fields, in the holiday apartments, with the guests or processing her many products. The tasks of Simone and Matthias are as varied as the herbs in their garden. “No two days are the same here,” they laugh. And yet they seem deeply relaxed. “I’m not always like that”, says Simone, “but I know the right herbs for it”. Her warm and kind laughter swings through the air, which is charged by the approaching thunderstorm.
There is no daily routine at the Wirtseppelerhof – luckily! After a long summer, Simone and Matthias can only pause and take a break when the first layer of snow has fallen.
Experiment organic farm
The two have gradually built up the various pillars and business activities of the organic farm. In the beginning, the farm was an experiment. After Simone’s second pregnancy, she did not return to her job as a management consultant, but devoted herself to her children and herbs. Matthias, who was actually a trained electrician, made use of the maternity leave and was thus able to try out whether the farm had a future. The two were on the same page: “Running the farm together will work!”, they agreed and so the Wirtseppelerhof grew into an organic farm with a special philosophy.
“Everything we do must be sustainable” is Simone’s and Matthias’s guiding principle. “You mustn’t harm nature, you mustn’t use poisons, you mustn’t exploit nature.” According to this philosophy, they manage their farm and agriculture. Cows, pigs, ducks and hens can therefore enjoy a great deal of freedom. “Even if this is actually uneconomical, because they consume much more energy when they run so much.”
Time for what matters
This summer it was especially great that the two can take a lot of time for their animals. “One of our cows had an accident near the Rotmoosalm and got stuck in the mountain pines.” The shepherd found the completely weakened animal. A spectacular rescue followed: the cow was flown into the valley by helicopter. On the Hämmermoosalm Matthias cared for her for two days until she could return home to the farm. “She’s doing great again”, he says happily. “That was only possible because we have the time and the possibilities on our farm.”
Her parents are also still helping out actively. The family is important on the generation farm. Simone’s dad and Matthias’s parents help where necessary: in the stable, in on the fields, in the holiday flats, with the children. Simone and Matthias want to prove that a farm as a full-time career can still work today. Their aim is to ensure that the farm will remain attractive for future generations. Simone is full of ideas what she would like to do for the years to come. “Let’s see where the journey is going”, she says calmly and again her joyful laughter echoes across the farm.
Simone’s herb garden blossoms in full glory in summer. She has given us a few tips on what you can now plant in the garden and balcony in spring. Spring is the best time of year to plant herbs and flowers. But be careful: not everything can be planted outside right now. Not only in the high altitude Leutasch it can sometimes be freezing at night or even snowing. Both would damage the delicate plants. One should be careful at least until the “Eisheiligen” in May.
Before the more robust plants can be planted, the beds should be brought back into shape as a first step. They should be freed from weeds and the soil should be provided with an organic fertilizer with plenty of nutrients. The young plants will thank you later.
Radishes, potatoes and peas as seeds tolerate the climate very well and can be planted in the garden and on the balcony.
All plants should be covered at night to protect them.
Now is also the right time to harvest roots. Especially the roots of dandelion or horseradish can be harvested.
Tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes are plants that are sensitive to the cold and should not be exposed. The same applies to herbs, which are best left until after the ice saints. Until then, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lemon balm, basil and chives and other herbs should be kept in warm, protected places.
Simone’s recipes for health: Searching for herbs in nature
Especially in times like these, our immune system needs an extra boost and we yearn more than ever for a time-out in nature. Simone has two recipes for us to take advantage of the healing powers of nature during a relaxing walk.
Dandelion buds as “capers”
Dandelion is anything but a weed, it is actually really healthy. It is immunostimulant, anti-inflammatory, metabolism-stimulating, blood-cleansing, mobilizing and helps with headaches – just to name a few of its healing properties. All parts of the dandelion can be used: the flowers, buds, leaves and roots. Simone likes to collect the very small buds that form in the middle of the leaves. It is very important that the buds do not yet have a stem. It is also important to collect only away from dog walking tracks, away from busy roads and on unfertilized meadows. The delicious, tender buds are soaked in apple vinegar with a little water, sugar, honey and salt immediately after picking. This way they can be enjoyed like capers, making them excellent in salads, snacks and many other recipes. A tea made from dandelion leaves is also a real energy booster in spring: Simply boil a few fresh or dried leaves with hot water and enjoy the tea.
Stinging nettle as energy booster in spring
Another great plant is the stinging nettle. It is also known as a strengthening plant in spring. The list of its effects is long: among other things, the stinging nettle stimulates the metabolism, aids digestion, purifies the blood, lowers blood sugar levels and purifies the body. It helps with stress, tiredness, exhaustion, performance and memory problems. Simone knows: if the nettle had no painful nettles, it would have been eradicated long ago, because it has such great healing effects! Whether powdered, fresh or dried as tea, in herbal salt or herbal butter, the nettle can be used in many ways. It can also be used to make a brew for plants in the garden, balcony and house and strengthen them – a natural organic fertilizer. You can use everything from the stinging nettle from the leaf to the root. When harvesting, the same applies as for all plants that you want to use: collect away from dog walking tracks, away from busy roads and on unfertilized meadows. When harvesting nettles, it is also advisable to wear a pair of gloves to avoid getting stung by the (the name already tells it all) stinging nettles.
Spring is now the perfect start to make a “house tea over the year”. Simone collects herbs and plants from spring to autumn in the garden for her house tea. Like this, the power of nature can be enjoyed for a long time, even after spring and summer are over.
The Wirtseppelerhof in Leutasch has three holiday apartments for an idyllic holiday in the middle of nature. Simone and Matthias like to show their guests their life at the farm and the trained herbal teacher Simone offers guided herbal walks. The farm shop sells its own products: “We only offer products from own cultivation!”, Simone explains. You can therefore find eggs, seasonal vegetables, potatoes, sausages, syrup, teas, herb tinctures, presents and much more in organic quality in the shop. The farm shop is open 24 hours a day and is a self-service farm shop.
Simone and Matthias sell their delicious potato spirals from their own cultivation and “Hot Holler” (a hot drink) at the Advent Market of Leutasch. A stop at their stand is definitely worth it!
Fotos: Fabrice Dall’Anese, Tessa Mellinger