The Pfenning family has been farming as far back as documented family history exists – upwards of 400 years! Until chemicals were introduced into agriculture, everybody farmed organically – it was simply called “farming.” It is only now that a distinction is made between conventional methods and organic ones. At the turn of the century when agri-chemicals were new, Adam Pfenning and his son Wilhelm embraced the modern farming techniques and enjoyed the short-term yield increases they offered. However, by 1950 Wilhelm was starting to realize that he was sacrificing his own health because of the agri-chemicals he was using, and he started to question the nutritional value of the crops he was growing.
In 1952, Wilhelm made his first attempt at ‘chemical-free farming’, but due to community pressure and lack of expert advice, he reverted to ‘modern agriculture’ for a short time. Although his health continued to get worse (mainly from exposure to mercury-based seed treatments) his love for farming did not diminish. From this, his quest to produce wholesome food without destroying the environment and his health began, and he started reading, questioning, and developing a network of like-minded farmers.
In 1965, with two young children and another on the way, Wilhelm and his wife Barnhild decided to give organic farming another try, and they never looked back. It was very challenging to farm differently from the neighbours in Gnodstadt, the small Bavarian village where the Pfenning family had lived for hundreds of years. The pressure from both neighbours and family was intense at first, but they persevered in their approach.
After a lengthy battle with the West German Autobahn Commission, in 1978 the Farmstead that had been built by Wilhelm became part of the planned roadway of the new A7 Autobahn. Wilhelm and Barnhild decided to look to the future and moved themselves and all four children (then aged 11 to 19) to Canada in the fall of 1981. The family immediately started farming on the land where we are located to this day.
Today, the farm is operated by Barnhild and Wilhelm’s sons, Wolfgang and Ekkehard, and their spouses, Regina and Jenn. Even though Wilhelm passed away in 2011 and Barnhild in 2021, their wisdom and experience serve as a guide for the daily decisions that are necessary in running the farm. The farm looks a lot different today than it did in 1981, but the story of the Pfenning family farm continues to grow. Now, the next generation has joined the family business, and are continuing the good work that began so long ago.
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