"Harvesting organic vegetables in winter means a great market opportunity for farms. We therefore see great potential for our farmers through the ongoing project 'Winter Vegetables'. In the medium term, imported vegetables in winter could even be replaced. In the future, we aim to ensure that Austrians can be supplied with fresh organic vegetables from regional farms in winter as well. This is not only ecologically sustainable, but also strengthens the regional organic agriculture. And it brings variety to the kitchen. Organic winter vegetables are a win-win situation for farmers, consumers and the environment," said BIO AUSTRIA Chief Executive Gertraud Grabmann on 29 November at a press conference at Ökohof Feldinger in Wals.

Long-term establishment of organic winter vegetable cultivation
Together with the head of the department of vegetable production at HBLFA Schönbrunn, DI Wolfgang Palme, and BIO AUSTRIA Fine Vegetable Consultant Alexandra Depisch, Grabmann presented on-site findings from project "Further development of winter vegetables", which is being carried out within the framework of the European Innovation Partnership EIP. Ökohof Feldinger is one of seven BIO AUSTRIA companies - in several federal states - participating in the project. The project's goal is the long-term establishment of organic winter vegetable cultivation.

"Winter vegetable cultivation represents an ecological and sustainable alternative to the usual winter supply of fresh vegetables, either through elaborate imports from southern countries or through resource-consuming domestic production in heated and perhaps even illuminated greenhouse facilities," explained DI Wolfgang Palme, head of the vegetable production department at the HBLFA Schönbrunn.

Winter vegetable supply
"Many fresh vegetables are more frost-resistant and winter-harder than people thought possible. They can be harvested from unheated foil tunnels, even when there are gale winds or when it is snowing outside," Palme said, pointed to findings from the project. "So even in the cold season, there are many tasty, crunchy local vegetable products available, like lettuce and leafy and tuberous vegetables," Palme emphasized. "Organic winter vegetables have not yet arrived in the broader ranges of the food trade. The innovative organic vegetable farms, with direct marketing involved in the project, will act as pioneers of a new, sustainable winter vegetable supply in Austria."

Alexandra Depisch, Consultant Fine Vegetables at BIO AUSTRIA, emphasized that according to the results of the project so far, the economic component of organic winter vegetable production is also promising. In addition to increasing the efficiency of area utilization by using mostly vacant acreage, the main reason for this are the lower maintenance costs and the use of resources compared to the summer crops," says Depisch. There are many advantages for the companies: In addition to a more constant income, the expansion of the assortment over the whole year also acts as an instrument for  customer loyalty, which could ultimately ensure optimized utilization of the personnel as well.

Background: what are winter vegetables?
The term "winter vegetables" refers to vegetables from open fields or from protected cultivation that are freshly harvested in the period between November and March. The most important thing is that the cultures are not heated. As a result, this mode of production is very energy efficient and sustainable. In addition to well-known products such as lettuce and the like, a large variety of products can be produced, which has not yet been fully exploited. For example, a wide variety of lettuce, cabbage and carrots can be harvested in winter.

For more information: www.bio-austria.at