Franz Aunkofer

Franz Aunkofer is one of the pioneers of organic agriculture: since 1980, he’s farmed organically in Herrnsaal, near Kelheim in Bavaria.

He was one of the first to breed organic pigs and to focus on animal welfare – at a time when organic farming associations hadn’t yet even published guidelines for it. Aunkofer was also one of the first (if not the first) to revive the forgotten grain, spelt. He sourced ten kilos of seed from Belgium, grew and bred it – and helped it to enjoy a renaissance. Spelt is now a significant part of the German diet. The revival of other heritage grains, such as emmer (also known as farro wheat), also has its roots in Herrnsaal. What makes Aunkofer exceptional is the joy he gains from experimentation and his modesty, despite the fact that he has achieved, and continues to achieve, so much.

“Really, you should wear your best suit when you go out into the fields, because you have to venerate the soil: it’s the basis of our existence. And if these thousands or millions or billions of microorganisms no longer work for us, what are we supposed to live from? Industrial agriculture produces nitrogen, but we can’t eat that. We live because the soil yields plants which nourish us. That’s why I say we have to have reverence for the soil”.

In 2010, Aunkofer was awarded the “Bayerische Staatsmedaille” (Bavarian State Medal).