I love kingfishers! I can still remember the day I saw my very first kingfisher. I had just walked through Patagonia, the southernmost part of Chile, and had had nothing but rain for three weeks. In spite of the inhospitable weather, I had decided to take a 300-kilometre (200-mile) "detour" to see the 2,000-year-old alerce trees in Pumalin Park. That morning I was finally standing underneath the ancient giant trees and somehow time had suddenly stopped to exist. Filled with the happiness of this magic experienced I walked across a swinging bridge and stopped dead in my tracks: only a few metres away, a kingfisher was perched on the branch of a tree. His plumage was orange and navy-blue. I stood there watching him for a long time until at last he flew off fast as an arrow to follow the course of the river towards the sea. At that moment, for me the kingfisher symbolised the indescribable lightness of being that sometimes enters our lives as unexpectedly as the kingfisher had entered mine, and whenever it manifests itself, it’s always a great gift...
I remembered my encounter with the kingfisher as I was on my way to see Wilma and Karl Kaufmann. They supply the magical aronia berries to Zotter and they have chosen a picture of a kingfisher as the logo for their products. Kingfishers still live in the unspoilt bodies of water in their region and symbolise a life in harmony with nature. In 2003 Wilma and Karl took over the parental agricultural operation and converted it to organic farming. They now grow currants, elderberries, aronia berries, pumpkin seeds, rose blossoms and make honey. Both of them had always wanted to use natural farming methods wherever possible and in the course of time they grew more and more accustomed to an organic and holistic way of life. They want to do more than just comply with organic farming standards – they are committed to living life the natural way. Naturally organic...
Juices made by Wilma and Karl
Dried aronia berries
Aronia berries were completely unknown in Austria when Wilma and Karl first started growing them for the first time six years ago. They are native to North America, where the indigenous tribes had always used them as an important food source to get them through the winter. The berries arrived in Central Europe via Russia and Poland and have been cultivated here for several years now. The bluish-purple fruit are little miracle workers. They contain a higher percentage of antioxidants than any other berry and protect humans from harmful substances by binding free radicals. Aronia berries have also been scientifically proven to have anti-inflammatory and immune-system boosting qualities as well as detoxifying and purifying effects. Aronia contains many essential vitamins and minerals. Aronia plants are relatively easy to cultivate as they quite hardy and can take both heat and frost. This summer Eastern Styria has not had any rain for four weeks and it has been very hot – but the berries look none the worse for it.
Aronia berries growing in Raabau, Styria.
The impressive aronia harvester.
The farm also boasts bees and honey
I stayed with Wilma and Karl for quite some time. Karl even turned on his aronia harvester, an impressive machine, a giant monster almost, that does nothing more than shake the bushes and collect the berries before they drop to the ground. I took a stroll through the aronia field, stopped enchanted before the light-red rose blossoms, watched the bees buzzing busily from one flower to another. Over delicious rose syrup and aronia juice, we told each other stories. Wilma’s and Karl’s eyes sparkled with excitement as they talked about their honeymoon trip to Africa almost twenty years ago – the wild animals they had seen, the unspoilt natural habitats and the hospitable people they had met. Their stories conveyed a sense of awe that made me really look forward to travelling through that magical continent. But Wilma also talked about the challenges of organic farming: about restrictions imposed by the authorities that make running the farm even harder, and all the bureaucratic hoops organic farmers have to jump through. If they fail to submit a single form before the deadline, they risk losing their organic certification. The fact that Wilma and Karl live and work in close harmony with nature makes no difference at all if their paperwork is not in order. But Wilma said that all of this was probably a learning curve that would require a lot of patience on her part.
As I sipped my glass of fresh aronia juice while we were talking, I noticed the effect this magic potion had on me! It seemed to purify and cleanse my whole body from within. For a moment it made me feel dizzy, but then I suddenly felt it... the indescribable lightness of being! I remembered the kingfisher and smiled – what a great gift! Thank you, aronia, thank you, Wilma and Karl!
Find out more about the Zotter Round-the-World trip...