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What’s on the menu? Food from the fields next door

What’s on the menu? Food from the fields next door

What’s on the menu? Food from the fields next door

Susanne Kaufmann took over the Hotel Post in Bezau in 1994 at the age of 23. She’s been in charge ever since with a flair for combining tradition and innovation. Since June of 2019, the "Hotel Post Bezau by Susanne Kaufmann" has been garnering its food from sustainable, solidarity-based agriculture sources. More precisely: from a large vegetable field right next to the hotel.

A focus on regionality and nature is nothing new for Susanne Kaufmann. In 2003, she founded a natural cosmetics line that is now in demand worldwide. “The Bregenzerwald is my greatest inspiration. No matter where I am, I can feel this energy, one which is based on traditions, sustainability and a willingness to innovate.” In her local dialect, Susanne Kaufmann recalls the autumn of 2018 when she decided to turn her 4,000 square metre plot of land in Bezau into a vegetable field for her hotel. Young Bregenzerwald farmer Christoph Kaufmann proved to be an enthusiastic partner. Christoph added another plot of land to the joint endeavour. Soon, the vision to form a vegetable garden morphed into the “Solidarity Agriculture Land.Wird” project. “Solidarity farming, or SOLAWI for short, means that each sharecropper buys a share of the harvest at the beginning of the year. Depending on the yield, the partners have helped investing in the sustainability of this local agriculture initiative. It’s a brilliant principle!” Next, Emanuel Moosbrugger from the Schwanen Biohotel in Bizau and the GASCHT hospitality school for tourism professions in Bezau also joined as partners. At the beginning, the yields were rather modest and, as a result, more expensive than from the wholesaler. “We were prepared for that,” says Susanne Kaufmann. “But we want to offer our guests a menu based on the ‘farm to table’ principle.’ In other words, goodness from the garden goes straight to your plate. Sustainable management, avoiding long transport routes, and reducing emissions are also important additional aspects.” Today, the harvest is bountiful with the garden providing chard, beans, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, radishes, pak choi, lettuce and more. Even the concept of ensuring surplus yields are well accounted for: “What’s the best way to make use of 50 kilos of ripe tomatoes?” Such dilemmas are no longer a problem. When it comes to canning and preserving, local women from the Bregenzerwald help with their labour and expertise.

None of this would have been possible without Nico Hirschfeld, Susanne Kaufmann’s congenial kitchen partner. Originally from North Germany, he shares her passion for regional products from her own farm. Susanne Kaufmann has resolutely renovated her hotel over time.This includes a more conscious focus on the use of food in all areas. “The breakfast buffet has shrunk, because offering more choice always means producing more than is actually consumed. Instead, sausage and cheese are served freshly sliced to the table. In the evening, we serve a set menu. All these factors have contributed to reducing our food waste by fifty percent.” For Susanne Kaufmann, however, converting the hotel to more sustainable food production was just the first step. For quite some time already, she’s been researching ways to make other areas of the hotel’s operations more sustainable. This includes cleaning and laundry detergents, the energy supply or the disposable plastic packaging of the cotton pads used in the in-house spa. “We are constantly on the lookout for new ideas, i.e. more environmentally friendly ways of working and more sustainable products. Such conscientious changes are essential these days. This is just the beginning and we’ve only just begun.”

Issue: Bregenzerwald Travel Magazine – Summer 2022