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Direct marketing helps small farm survival in the Grand Duchy

Interview by Erminia Ciarleglio, DLG

Felix Lavandier runs an Angus suckler herd and a flock of traditional Luxembourg red-headed “Fox sheep” (Fuchsschafe) as well as growing cereals in his 25 ha part-time farming business on fertile land just south of the Ardennes. Key income source is meat sales straight from the farm – a business established some time before corona lockdowns with sales relatively unaffected throughout the pandemic. In fact, this farmer reports more customer enquiries for fresh meat as home cooking increased and deep freezers emptied faster during the crisis.

Most of farmland is down to pasture but winter barley and triticale are among the cereals grown. The Lavandier farm is conventionally managed but the farmer believes that farmyard manure will increasingly be the major plant nutrient source on his land – including livestock manure bought-in from neighbouring farms.

Felix Lavandier, do you favour organic manure for your crops because of growing fertiliser application regulations? And does this affect your harvest yields?

As with agriculture in the rest of Europe, regulations affecting dunging levels expand in-line with environmental protection concerns. Main restrictions in Luxembourg concern water conservation areas with my own land being less affected in this respect. One of the main reasons for growing cereals here is to provide straw for the livestock in winter. Yields are still important, though. Growth has been slow in the present wet year with quality penalties including regrowth in the ears of triticale.

50% of Grand Duchy land area is farmed. The respective figure for the whole of the EU is just 39%. Despite this, the number of individual farms in Luxembourg continues to decrease. Why is this?

Despite the greater than average proportion of farmland in our country, the sector faces the same pressures as elsewhere - particularly the dearth of younger people wanting to take over farms. Farms are also being given up simply because chances of keeping them up-to-date have been missed so that they no longer represent future-oriented businesses.

On top of this, other sectors of our economy tend to be very keen on expansion. Ever-increasing areas of farmland are therefore being taken out of agricultural production, whether for building-on or for the establishment of compensational green areas. Increasing regulations, particularly concerning water conservation and protection, are also discouraging many from continuing in farming.

You have been a member of the DLG since 2015. What are your connections with German agriculture and how were you encouraged to join the DLG?

First of all, my agricultural studies were completed at the University of Weihenstephan-Triesdorf (HSWT) and the Technical University of Munich School of Life Sciences (TUM) and I naturally took the opportunity to attend DLG events often, including Eurotier, the Feldtage, etc.

Additionally, the DLG-Mitteilungen magazine has always been an important source of information for me. For this reason, I did not want to completely break off contact after my studies had finished. Neither did I want to do without the continual supply of information. It’s also my opinion that it remains very important to support interest groups such as the DLG within agriculture.