Portret of Antje
Antje Schiffers is an artist based in Berlin. She is one of the founding members of myvillages.org and grew up in Heiligendorf, a village close to Wolfsburg in northern Germany. In 2005 she started working in cooperation with Thomas Sprenger, now running a kind of family business.
Launch of myvillages.org and presentation of the farmers’ videos
15 May 2003

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Once it was clear that myvillages would take part in Heiligendorf’s birthday celebrations my duties began. The farmers wanted to announce this special event all year long with big straw puppets on the country road as it is a fashion in parts of Germany. I was asked to come to Heiligendorf to paint the puppets’ eyes which were meant to be remarkably better than ever seen. I painted them with the varnish used for tractors, the only available paint. I must say they were a success. From then on all signs needed by the farmers and hunters to present themselves at the celebration had to be made by me.

The launch of myvillages.org was a big party for us. Wapke was cutting cheese without ever getting tired. What remained most in everybody’s head was the friendship of Wapke and Kathrin coming from abroad to Heiligendorf for this occasion.

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Ulrich Lücke, Heiligendorf - from the video
21 June 2000

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Today is the 21st of June and we are already starting to harvest the grain. It was never this early. The winter barley is already ripe for reaping. We normally start harvesting the winter barley around the beginning or middle of July. We're doing it two weeks earlier this year.

The bitter truth is this: never before in the 25 years that I’ve been in the business have I received such a low price for grain as this year - an average of less than 20 DM per centner of grain. I think back nostalgically to the first years, when I took over the farm from my father in 1977. In those days we still got about 50 DM per centner of grain.
Also, the quality standards for bread grain are much higher than in the past. The moisture levels were reduced from 16.5% in those days to 14,5 % today. With those kinds of stipulations, the cost per hectare on many of the minor locations just isn’t covered any more by the yield.

I guess I’ll be able to keep running the farm over the next few years until I reach retirement age. My health permitting, of course. Even if the government is forcing us to tighten our belts even further. But many of my fellow farmers are already on the last notch. They are, as the saying goes, practically on the bread line. My question is how much longer can this go on?
I find my work rewarding and my life fulfilling, despite all the stress and the upsets that go along with it. But my work gives me many happy and contented hours and I can look back with a certain sense of pride at almost 40 years of work in farming.

I like being a farmer and would like to stay one.

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Beginning of “I like being a farmer and I would like to stay one” then still called “Landleben”
07 February 2000

Invited by Barbara Steiner and Doris Berger as part of the project “Unhomely Home”, Kunstverein Wolfsburg (Wolfsburg Art Association).

That’s what I wrote when I started the project in 2000:
Small farms are no longer profitable. Many farmers have started running them as a second income source or they convert their stables and barns into appartments. Often it doesn´t seem reasonable to them to pass on the farm to the next generation as they traditionally would have done. The villages are changing, they turn into mere housing estates. Many people who work in the cities enjoy living in the countryside. People try to preserve the rural appearance of the villages: they want the half-timbering to be seen or lattice windows to be installed. Less and less tractors go through these villages. They have lost their importance as places of production.

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01 January 2000

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