What began as a pure operation for flowering potted plants, over the years, developed into a supplier of various products such as winter vegetables in pots. Since last year, the Bioland nursery of Klaus Umbach also produces chard, winter postelein, Pak Choi, and various Asian salads, which are sold nationwide. "We started producing winter vegetables in 2022 because we saw a great demand for these. These assortments are suitable not just for hobby cultivation but also for yield cultivation. Items like Asian salads, but also staghorn plantain, chard, pak choi, palm kale or winter cress are extremely popular."
"Furthermore, we want to motivate people to spruce up their balcony boxes and further expand home cultivation. Through very popular online workshops, like those organized by Birgit Schattling (Bio-Balkon-Kongress starting Friday, 08.09.), interest and knowledge about this product segment is increased." Umbach offers its goods both through its in-house online store and five sales stands in the Heilbronn/Stuttgart area, as well as through organic wholesalers Weiling and Bodan. "Our products are at the intersection of ornamental, useful, and medicinal plants, with an increasing focus on the latter." The company hopes to offer products such as Asian salads, pak choi, staghorn plantain, and chard year-round in the future. "Wholesalers are still quite reluctant to list the goods, as we still have the 'flower pot stamp' on our foreheads."
1.5 hectares of greenhouse, 15 hectares of open land
Umbach has access to 1.5 hectares of greenhouse space and 15 hectares of open land space. "Protected cultivation is intensive cultivation, in which only potted plants have been grown to date. However, crops continue to be dropped due to climate conditions. While sunflower is still a strong organic product because it is a symbolic crop, more sensitive crops are increasingly disappearing from our portfolio. Products like pak choi and Asian salads, however, are almost unbreakable," Umbach said. "First and foremost, we are seeing a big change in assortment. That's a development you've always seen in the fruit and vegetable industry. What's changed for us because of climate change is that the working hours for our employees are now more flexible, so we can start work earlier if necessary and stop earlier accordingly."
Overall, he said, production costs have increased by seven to eight percent. "However, we were able to pass on the costs. This is a mixture of energy, material, and personnel costs. However, this increase of eight percent also occurred last year compared to the year before last. We have felt a certain reluctance to buy since last year, but it is still relatively within the bounds after the high turnover of Corona years. We have had to reduce our organic flower production, although we have again seen growth in potted herbs, medicinal plants, and winter vegetables. One thing is certain for us: as soon as the air gets thinner, we can do without flowers, but not without vegetables."
Hemp production on four hectares
Additionally, the nursery began outdoor cultivation of commercial hemp this year. "The hemp lacks a bit of water. Therefore, we expect to harvest only a fraction of what we originally wanted. In this respect, we are similar to regular growers: when the weather is bad, so is the product. You need good nerves and a long-term strategy." Commercial hemp is a permitted food whose leaves are used for tea and the seeds for flour and related processed products. Very common is hemp oil. "When it comes to selecting varieties, we are in contact with the University of Hohenheim, where hemp variety trials have been running for three years."
Umbach and his team are just starting to pot up the winter vegetables. To present the winter vegetables, an open house will be held at his farm on September 23 and 24. "The winter vegetables, medicinal herbs, hemp, and the information about them are the focus, with which we want to reach especially the end consumers. With this information and the response of our customers, we can also offer new products to the wholesale again. For us, the consumer is also the sales indicator and our guide to the future."