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Urban Organic Farming in Austria with the concept of Selbsternte ("self -harvest"): An agronomic and socio-economic analysis

Vogl, C. R.; Axmann, P. and Vogl-Lukasser, B. (2004) Urban Organic Farming in Austria with the concept of Selbsternte ("self -harvest"): An agronomic and socio-economic analysis. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 19 (2), pp. 67-79.

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In Vienna, consultants, organic farmers and green-minded consumers have developed a new concept of urban organic farming, called Selbsternte (`self-harvest'). Organic farmers prepare a plot of arable land (the Selbsternte plot) and sow or plant rows composed of 18-23 plant species. In mid-May the plots are divided into subplots that contain 2-6m of
every sown species and are rented to so-called self-harvesters for a period of about 136 days. In 2002 Selbsternte was being practiced at 15 plots in Vienna or in neighboring cities, represented by 861 subplots, with a total area of 68,740m2, and managed by 12 organic farmers for 861 registered self-harvesters. At the Roter Berg plot, experimental subplots were established to evaluate yields and the value of the harvested produce, and interviews were conducted with 27 self-harvesters, the eight Selbsternte farmers and one Selbsternte consultant. The experimental subplots were managed in two different ways, namely, `with low intensity' (LIS) and `with high intensity' (HIS; meaning additional harrowing, mulching and sowing of additional plants). At the LIS 24.2 h and at the HIS 38.9 h of work were invested over 51 days. Monetary investment was US$184 for the LIS and US$259 for the HIS subplots. The total harvest of fresh produce was: 163 kg/subplot for LIS and 208 kg/subplot for HIS subplots. The total value of the harvest at the HIS was US$364 for conventional and US$766 for organic prices. All self- arvesters saw the rental of a subplot and the work as an activity of leisure. More than half of the self-harvesters reported `trying something new' at their subplots. The most frequently mentioned innovation for them was growing an unknown species. Twenty-five self-harvesters sowed 54 different, additional plant species. The motivating factors in establishing Selbsternte plots, as reported by all the farmers, were, primarily, better relations with consumers and work diversifcation, and only then were economic factors a consideration. The contribution of Selbsternte to income varied at the farms, being between 0 and 30% of the total farm income. As a main success factor, all of the farmers reported a close relationship between the self-harvesters and the farmers. Selbsternte subplots can be understood as small experimental stations where self-harvesters merge traditional horticultural techniques with urban ideas on permaculture, sustainable land use and participatory farming. Selbsternte has potential value for the improvement of urban agriculture, but also for the development of organic farming in general.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:urban farming, organic farming, agrobiodiversity, innovation, self-harvesters relations, farmers' experiments
Subjects: Farming Systems
Crop husbandry
Research affiliation: Austria > Univ. BOKU Wien > Sustainable Agr. Systems - IfÖL
Deposited By: Vogl, Prof. Dr. Christian Reinhard
ID Code:6858
Deposited On:30 Jan 2006
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:32
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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