Using synergies between urban and rural areas – Stadt Land Gemüse

The Demeter (biodynamic) farm “Stadt Land Gemüse” was established in 2018 by Jochen Groß and is still in the start-up phase. The cultivated vegetables and the harvested fruits of the leased orchards are sold exclusively in its own farm shop in Cologne. In addition, arable farming will be carried out on an area of 10 hectares starting in 2020. Currently, a clover grass mixture is growing on the 10 ha area, which is sold as feed to surrounding farmers. Since 2019, eight lambs have also been living on the orchards, which are responsible for the landscape conservation of the area. In addition, the meat of the male lambs is to be marketed via the farm shop starting in 2020. The location of the cultivation areas close to the city (approx. 18 km away from Cologne) ensures short delivery distances to the farm shop in the city center of Cologne.

The farm        

The farm pursues a sustainable concept, which is characterized by a diverse vegetable cultivation. This fosters natural diseases and pests control. The farmer cultivates vegetables on an area of 1.2 hectares, with a large variety of 35 different types of vegetables in the course of the year. In addition to its own products, the farm shop also markets other products from the region, such as wine, honey, meat and vegetables. At present, the founder of the farm does most of the required work on the farm and in the farm shop. He is supported in his fieldwork by a gardener. Opencast mining areas and extensive arable farming (especially potatoes, sugar beet, rape and wheat) dominate the landscape. Thus, the way in which food is produced on this farm stands out from most other farms in the region.

Development paths               

The founder of the farm StadtLandGemüse has not always been in the farming sector. He started his agricultural education in his late twenties and decided to create his own sustainable agricultural business. The farm was founded in 2018 and is still in the process of being established. The first major milestone was the financing of the initial equipment for vegetable cultivation. Part of the investment was covered by a loan from Regionalwert AG Rheinland – a citizen shareholder corporation. Through the partnership with Regionalwert AG Rheinland, which supports smallholder structures, it was possible to finance the foil tunnel, some equipment for vegetable cultivation and part of the expansion of the farm shop. Another important step was the first vegetable growing season in 2019, which was successful. Since March 2019, the farm shop in Cologne has also been open three days a week.

Business model                       

The partnership with Regionalwert AG Rheinland was very helpful for the initial investments. Through Regionalwert AG, the company was able to invest approx. 30,000 €. The money was used, among other things, for a foil tunnel, agricultural equipment and the lease of the first year. Obtaining a loan from Regionalwert AG is often easier than obtaining a classic bank loan. In addition, Regionalwert AG supports numerous other partner farms in the region, so that further advantages result from the network structure.

Another important aspect of the business model is the direct marketing in the city centre of Cologne, a city with approximately one million inhabitants. Products from other farmers are also marketed in the farm shop. These producer relationships result from a network of Demeter farms within the region.

Innovative practices                                         

With the exception of a community supported agriculture and a vegetable cooperative, there are hardly any organic farms in the region and certainly no new ones. Therefore, the farm shows an alternative form of agriculture, which is rare in the region.

Future                                        

First of all, Jochen Groß wants to establish his company on the market and further consolidate the small farm structure. His company should also remain small and diverse in the long term and not continue to grow endlessly. In addition, the farmer plans to start arable farming in 2021 and to invest in the necessary machinery by then. To make arable farming profitable, it can be useful to extend the arable land by a few hectares. This will certainly add some milestones to the company’s development and therefore it will also be necessary for the company to be supported by an additional workforce in order to divide the tasks better and to ensure that no work falls by the wayside.

Tips for the learner                

To found your own business you need a certain amount of courage and above all, you must not lose your curiosity for new ideas. In order to be inspired, it is particularly helpful to look at different business models and ideas in practice. In this way, you can get a better impression yourself and adopt or adapt successful strategies for your own business structure.

In addition, basic knowledge should already be available through agricultural training or similar, so that the person has at least a rough idea of what he or she is getting involved in and what to expect.

Another tip that Mr. Groß suggests to new founders is to start small and not to grow too fast during further development. Even though it is difficult to keep track of many developments immediately after the foundation, Mr. Groß recommends not realizing too much at once, so that the business structure can grow with the company and the risk remains manageable and, if necessary, one has energy and financial reserves to start a second attempt.

Authors: Corinna Sass, Simone Sterly