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We have a regular customer on Mallorca, who picks up his goods himself.
Verena Dünnebacke, owner of a Christmas tree plantation, Sauerland, Germany - Fendt 415, 820 Vario
We have a regular customer on Mallorca, who picks up his goods himself.

O Christmas tree

The Caucasian fir is at home from the Caucasus to Georgia and up to northeastern Turkey. “It is the most popular Christmas tree in Germany,” says Verena Dünnebacke from experience. With her family, she primarily cultivates Caucasian firs. And the demand is increasing. In Germany alone, some 23 to 25 million Christmas trees will be sold this year.

Fir trees as far as the eye can see. The plantation begins to the right, next to the farmstead of the Dünnebacke- Strugholtz GbR in Effeln, and reaches up to the edge of the timber forest. Some 6,000 young trees are planted on a hectare when they are three to four years old. “The trees are harvested starting with the 5th year after planting. The number each year depends on the age and quality of the trees. The latter, for example, can vary depending on the source of the seeds and the location,” explains Verena Dünnebacke, as she walks across the wide farmyard. Past the white stucco house on the left, the adjacent office building, through the barn, directly to the surrounding Christmas tree plantation. Red, white, blue and violet paper strips hang out of the pocket in her vest. She labels the Caucasian fir trees with them. The colour stand for size and quality, and therefore ultimately for the price of each tree.

Now, in the late morning, when her two-year-old daughter Anna is sleeping, the young mother uses the time to work. In the meantime, her husband, Peter Strugholtz jr., checks the tree stands, which are harvested in mid- November with the latest technology. Verena Dünnebacke inherited the Christmas tree farm in Niedermarpe in the Hochsauerland District from her father and Strugholtz, jr took over his parents’ farming and forestry company in Anröchte/ Effeln in the district of Soest. Now, together, they mainly cultivate Caucasian firs and some hectares of blue spruce and Norway spruce on more than 100 ha, which is mostly their own farmland. In addition to Christmas trees, the farm has some 100 ha of forest and 30 ha of grain.

“I never wanted to become anything else!”

This all requires excellent organisation. After labelling the trees, Verena Dünnebacke, still has a lot to do in the office today. She takes care of sales, conscientiously and calmly. The customer is king. “For example, for years we have had a regular customer on Mallorca, who picks up his goods himself,” she reports. That is exactly what fascinates her on her work. It is interesting and multi-faceted. “I never wanted to become anything else”, she laughs. And she knows what she is talking about: she was already confronted with the production of Christmas trees on her parents’ farm when she was a child. That is why she went to the Benedictine High School in Meschede. And graduated with a degree from the Academy of Business and Administration in Lippstadt in its co-operative education programme. And the young entrepreneur still wants to do a lot more. She is planning to further optimise the working processes in the business. On the one hand, to save costs, on the other, so the trees can grow better and more uniformly.

Ready for the Christmas marathon

While she is busy taking care of customers, her daughter Anna is at her grandparents’, Christel and Peter Strugholtz, sr, and is zipping around the farmyard in her Fendt pedal tractor. Verena Dünnebacke is thankful that she receives support from both her parents and her in-laws. “Only if the family works well together is it possible to manage such a complex business at two different locations,” explains the young woman. Further education, info events – that also belongs to her job. But not only Anna’s pedal tractor has a place in the large farmyard. Two Fendt tractors stand there, spotless and ready for the Christmas marathon. While the Fendt 820 Vario and Fendt 415 Vario are mainly used for crop care and planting on the plantation, they also do transport and loading work during the harvest season. Important advantages are the manoeuvrability, stepless control and economy of the powerful Fendt tractors.

A relatively wide spacing of 1.10 m is left between the firs. This gives the firs enough space to grow uniformly to all sides.

The Christmas trees are readied for delivery with the aid of a palletiser. Depending on the size of the Christmas trees, about 100 trees fit on one pallet.

Long tradition in the Sauerland

Verena Dünnebacke won’t be finished with work for a while. After work in the office, she makes her way to Niedermarpe, where she grew up. A small village between Meschede and Olpe, comprising twelve houses, most of which are half-timbered. In the middle is the Dünnebacke property. A big farmyard with barns and other buildings. The farm’s own chapel, which can be reached from the main road and the small Marpe bridge were erected in 1680. She jumps out of the car and greets the construction workers, who are renovating the house. She quickly talks through some details with them. Her 72-yearold mother, Luzie Dünnebacke, joins them to clarify the procedures for the next few days. Her father, Wilhelm Dünnebacke, who already passed away in 1999, began planting Christmas trees in the 1960's. A long tradition.

The Sauerland is the largest contiguous cultivation area for Christmas trees in Germany. That is primarily due to the nutrient deficient soil and the hilly topography. But now Verena Dünnebacke has to hurry. Because she has made arrangements for hunting this evening. She already got a youth hunting license when she was 17 years old. “Hunting belongs to our farm. I wanted to do justice to that,” she remembers, while she gets her hunting things out of the house. She will go to the raised hide with her husband today. “We not only work together, but also have a hobby in common,” she says happily.


Grandparents Christel and Peter Strugholtz sen. with grand-daughter Anna (centre).

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    Grandparents Christel and Peter Strugholtz sen. with grand-daughter Anna (centre).

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    Besides playing the organ and singing in the choir, another one of her hobbies is hunting.

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    All three help her balance her daily life.

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    The agricultural equipment dealers Willi Better from Büren near Paderborn (left) and Fendt factory representative for Westphalia, Dirk Fraune (right) are good partners in technology. The Betten KG can look back at a long history with Fendt.

Active support from her parents

When the last trees are sold on the 24th of December, the salespeople meet on the farm in Niedermarpe and are received by Verena Dünnebacke and her husband. At this time, her in-laws and Anna are waiting for her for Christmas dinner in Effeln. “We look forward to this time together,” she comments. Today, the demands of a young, modern family-run company are very high. Increasing bureaucracy and regulation of the use of pesticides increase the amount of work that needs to be done. Only with the active support of parents on both sides of the family is it possible that the Christmas Tree farm in Anrüchte/Effeln and Niedermarpe functions smoothly and the owners also have time for family life and hobbies.