Spring is coming, the temperatures are rising, but asparagus farmer Matthias Beeck is preparing all of these sleepless nights. Asparagus pricking traditionally begins in around three weeks, shortly before Easter. Then on 26 hectares of land harvest that secures a large part of the annual income of Beeck’s family business.
He has been working with a permanent team of 24 harvest helpers for many years Polandwith every move. Half of it is already on the farm near Reinfeld, a place between Bad Oldesloe and Lübeck, and is preparing everything. But whether and when the other half will come is unclear. “All seasonal workers want to join us,” says Matthias Beeck, “but the situation changes every day.” Because in the Corona crisis, many European countries have closed their borders again. There are travel warnings, controls and kilometers of traffic jams between Germany and Poland.
If the asparagus is not harvested in time, it can also endanger the harvest in the coming year. At the same time, Matthias Beeck threatens to break off his second mainstay: his asparagus restaurant, a popular excursion destination in the region, must remain closed this season.
Just like Matthias Beeck, many farmers in the Hamburg area are currently doing the same. “Around 300,000 trained harvest workers from the Balkan countries come to Germany every year,” says Fred Eickhorst from the Association of Asparagus and Berry Growers.
Christoph Werner, whose family has been growing asparagus in Deinste in the Altes Land for 40 years, even chartered a plane and had 100 Romanian harvest workers flown to Hamburg. “Now we are well looked after and will at least be able to get our harvest from the field,” said Werner. He is still waiting for 100 more workers from Poland: “If the harvest helpers travel back to Poland after the season, they will have to be quarantined there for 14 days. I hope that I will therefore not receive any rejections.”
In order to reduce the risk of infection, Werner has tightened the hygiene measures in his company. The temperature of the workforce was measured at the airport. “We all work a lot outdoors, mostly in small fixed groups with sufficient minimum distance,” says the farmer. In addition to asparagus, Werner’s family business grows berries and cherries and secures additional income through photovoltaics and wind energy. But the harvest in recent years has been problematic, too much moisture in 2017, heat waves in 2018, then a short breather last year. And now Corona.