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XtraBlatt Issue 02-2018

  • Text
  • Krone
  • Machinery
  • Forage
  • Straw
  • Farmer
  • Contractor
  • Dairy
  • Bales
  • Agricultural
  • Cows

ON-FARM 1 2 1 Belonging

ON-FARM 1 2 1 Belonging to the Wessels company group since 2015 is the equestrian centre in Trechwitz. Alongside riding instruction and private stabling, the farm’s own restaurant facilities have become established here. The premises can be rented-out for events and family celebrations. 2 The 500 organically-managed dairy cows have loose housing with deep bedded cubicles. 3 The smaller guests are never forgotten! There’s a very attractive fleet of vehicles parked ready for use at the equestrian centre. 4 The riding school horses are grouphoused under welfare-friendly conditions. Landesbank and asked for 850,000 DM,” related the now 39-year-old farmer. The story is amusing and a long one. In the end, though, he got his cash - a development he still says no one had reckoned with back home on the farm. “This was one of my key moments – when I realised that I was capable of achieving something,” recalls Timo Wessels. After that, things didn’t continue quite so smoothly. It transpired that he had calculated too tightly and, in fact, needed another 300,000 DM. Going back to the bank wasn’t really an option. All that was left was to bury the plan – or to cut expenses through using own labour in building. He decided on the latter strategy and subsequently landed on the building site along with some youths from the village. “One of them knew a bricklayer, the next a roofer and, in a flash, we had a few youngsters together to help me with the work. Each day we started at 6 am and stopped at 10 pm.” This commitment saved so much capital that there was enough left over for a slurry storage facility and instead of the planned 180 cow places, facilities for a total 320. “I then had to buy the extra cows on even more credit. But with the added milk, the business was finally viable with even a respectable margin left over after interest and repayments.” TRUST IN THE TEAM 3 Following this turnaround, everything somehow worked out right, recalls Timo Wessels. “At heart I am a farmer and everything I do here follows this strategy. The company group growth always came from inside, out of the farm business. Either we needed something, or one of the employees had an idea. For instance, as we set out to build a biogas plant the builders involved went bankrupt and initially left us standing alone. I reacted by hiring two truck mechanics who knew how an engine functioned. They then worked their way into the theme biogas.” 16

4 The resultant TW Biogas construction and service company remains a good example of Timo Wessels’ business sense and feeling for what functions - and where it’s better to tread carefully with financing from outside. In its best years, the biogas firm managed an annual turnover of 13 m €. “On the theme biogas, however, I’ve always had the feeling that this cannot remain so successful for ever. Right from the start, I stayed extremely careful with investments. This is why biogas is financed 100% from profits with not even a current account overdraft involved. As may be expected, the turnover has diminished somewhat. Now, the biogas firm keeps busy with mainly servicing and repairs of existing plants.” Annual turnover nowadays lies at “only” approx. 2 m €. Timo Wessels carries a load of responsibility: for much of the capital and many work places. As a rule, he says he sleeps well, returns to his home around 4 pm each day and, now and again, goes off on holiday. He wouldn’t manage this without trust in his work force. “The individual firms all have their own managers. I trust them, they are highly motivated and all involved financially in the success of the company. “Currently, his payroll stands at around 100 and he’s friends with every employee. The question as to when and where he learned about managing all these people, and whether he had formal training in this area, he hears often. His answer: “I never learned this. But even in the school I was class spokesman. I am simply a very communicative person and busy myself with subjects – be they pleasant or difficult – at once, or at least when required. Everything else I’ve had to learn through pain!” TRAINING CONTRACTS He also carries responsibility for the next generation. He learned this from his parents. Back in 1997, they risked a completely new beginning for the future of their son. Now, he gives the impression that he wants right now to set the points for the future of his four children. In 2015 he took over the equestrian centre in the neighbouring village of Trechwitz from his mother. “This fits superbly into our company organisation. Also, I don’t want to have to hear my daughter saying one day that I hadn’t retained the business for her!” Alongside private stabling, riding lessons and coach drives are offered at the “Biohof zum Mühlenberg”. In the attached gastronomy facilities the restaurant’s own cook prepares meals with organically-reared beef from the farm, or other ‘bio’ ingredients. Increasingly, the facilities are rented for birthday celebrations or weddings. For this reason, a larger professional catering kitchen is being planned – the cook smiles delightedly when we talk about such plans. In the neighbouring Gut Quovadis farm buildings, which also belong to the Wessels group, there are 110 beds for overnighting in hostel style, or there’s accommodation in newbuilt holiday homes. Very successful are so-called “kita (kindergarten) trips” and class outings, whereby the children have the chance of learning about the riding centre, the production of organic milk and everything else concerning farming life. Says Timo Wessels: “my children are the only ones in their school classes that still come from a full-time working farm. For many, the connection with agriculture is completely missing. In this respect, we have considered how we can make our contribution towards explaining everything.” And, as so often, through coincidence it transpired that the farm Gut Quovadis just a short foot-march away, had come up for sale. During our roundtrip over the farm, the word “hotel” was incidentally mentioned: That could be sited just there. With a matter of factness, and a small portion of enthusiasm, came the comment: “that would certainly be good.” « 17