For the third year, young farmer Leon Kurz from Buchholz in der Nordheide devoted himself to growing and selling garlic. He grows tubers on 2.5 hectares and sells them under the “Heidjer Knoblauch” brand to agricultural stores, regional trade and restaurants in the Hamburg and Lüneburg Heath region. The 23-year-old supplies garlic to around 35-40 customers. From autumn 2021, the offer also includes proprietary aioli dips.
As northern Germany is not a classic garlic growing region, Leon Kurz saw opportunities for a new branch of business. An agricultural student is to take over the farm of his parents’ profit-making farm. The family farms around 400 hectares there and grows, among others, rape, wheat and barley. “I wanted to expand our company. By growing and selling fresh garlic instead of dried garlic, as is often the case, we have a unique selling point in our region. ” Nevertheless, he realizes that garlic is “not a potato” that is consumed in such large amounts. “But my father was not against my idea, he assured me of his support, but gave me responsibility and risk,” said Kurz.
Marketing has to endure
First, develop a marketing concept for the commodity, then focus on the cultivation – that was the basic idea of the young farmer. “Many of the big competitors plant new crops on decent acreage right away, and after the harvest they wonder how to sell the goods.” However, Leon Kurz wanted to be in a good negotiating position from the very beginning and did not necessarily have to sell his goods below value if he did not find any buyers.
In order to keep the risk of cultivation low, he started cultivating various types of garlic in autumn 2019, initially on 2,500 m². In addition, he has tried his hand at growing shallots on 1,200 m². Soon after planting, he went to various farm stores in the Lüneburg Heath and Hamburg that could potentially sell his goods, and acquired the first farm stores and restaurants as merchants.
To gain knowledge in this field, he chose marketing, innovation and business management modules during his studies, and not only dealt with “classic” topics such as agricultural engineering and arable farming. From the very beginning, he invested time and effort in marketing and together with a friend communication designer developed the brand “Heidjer Knoblauch”. In the meantime, he invested an average of four figures in marketing. Among other things, Kurz has entrusted maintaining a social media presence, designing logos and labels, and maintaining the website to an expert so that he can devote himself to other topics.
All beginnings are difficult
Besides marketing, growing vegetables abroad is not a sure success. “You’re following your gut. There are hardly any empirical values. ” Even though the cultivation of garlic is easy, aspects such as variety selection, harvest time selection and crop protection have been challenging. “As with all niches, those who know how cultivation works tend to keep it to themselves.”
“The better the soil, the better the garlic grows.” While in southern Germany yields of up to 12 tonnes per hectare are possible, Kurz expects around 5-6 tonnes of trade goods per hectare. Dust has now found varieties that grow well in its soil (20 to 40 soil points). Garlic needs a relatively large amount of water to form bulbs. Therefore, the farmer only grows it in areas that can be irrigated using the existing technology.
Early and late varieties
It relies on early and late varieties to spread the harvest time and be able to offer fresh goods as long as possible. The first harvest has recently been brought. The Kurz family recently invested in warehousing technology to be able to sell fresh goods until late fall. “This is the most important discipline in which you can offer fresh garlic even at Christmas. Only in this way can we stand out. “
For sale, fresh garlic costs from 12.00 to 22.00 euro per kg, of which the farmer receives from 5.50 to 8.00 euro. Until now, Kurz has relied on direct delivery to the regional markets of Edeka and delivery to the Famila central warehouse. “It’s harder to stand out in trade. That’s why we rely on campaigns and tasting shows to present ourselves. ”
Use of B-Ware: Aioli
The food trade, in particular, places high demands on the visual quality of the product – e.g. garlic must not be purple or crack and must form whole, round tubers. “Per hectare, you collect not only good A-class products, but also goods that are not 100% optically compliant, but can still be used,” says Kurz. Without further ado, he came up with the idea of making a regional aioli dip from fresh garlic.
In collaboration with the cook, he developed a basic recipe for aioli in the commercial kitchen of a neighboring farm store – also to start low-threshold and not have to invest directly in his own production facilities on the farm. “It was a good trade. We were able to make our suggestions and the recipe has been adapted. ” There are currently three types of Heidjer Knoblauch aioli – classic, mustard and raspberry. It contains 5% garlic as well as mayonnaise, yoghurt and spices. “Unfortunately, we cannot work with our own ingredients or our own eggs at the moment because it is too difficult in terms of food technology and shelf life,” he says. For a 150 ml glass, Kurz charges EUR 2.80 for resale.
In the future, there will be other varieties and products. There are no agricultural or online stores planned yet – the young farmer wants to concentrate on local sales.