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Vision becomes reality

Agriculture.com Staff 07/29/2009 @ 11:47am

At 32, Erik Jennewein has packed plenty into his short journey through life. Encouraged by his parents, Claudia and Karl, to travel and experience the world, his first big adventure was spending six months in the U.S. on a 4-H youth exchange program.

"Being able to experience lifestyles and other cultures outside of rural Germany taught me to be more open-minded," Erik says.

After earning a BS degree in economics, specializing in international trade, Erik traveled the globe gaining insight into other countries. "I'm thankful for the opportunity to observe practices and to bridge ideas with associates in another country," he says. "Cataloging those experiences -- whether good or bad -- only reinforced my decision to return to the family farm."

In 2002, Erik returned to Münchweiler, Germany (two hours southwest of Frankfurt), to join the family's farming operation. As the fourth generation to oversee the land, this young man's ties to the Thunder Mountain region of his homeland began in 1928, when his great-grandfather, Thomas, purchased the original farm of 50 hectares (125 acres).

After serving in World War II, two of Thomas's sons returned home. Peter, Erik's grandfather, managed the on-site monastery mill, while Peter's brother, Karl, ran the farm. In 1988, all the property was deeded to Peter's son, Karl Heinz Jennewein (Erik's father). This year it passed onto Erik.

"Taking on responsibility requires trust. Dad has always been open-minded and fair," Erik says. "He felt it was an opportune time for me and my wife, Violaine, with our infant sons, Luis and Joseph, to carry the torch.

"This transition began six years ago when real estate contracts were established with his brother and two sisters," Erik explains. "Completing the legal process is similar to the documentation he went through with his father. In our agreement, Dad can choose to be a full-time employee or to remain in the partnership."

Since Erik became a half partner in 2002 and now full owner, dramatic changes have occurred. Previously, livestock played a significant role in their bottom line. By 2006, all the animals were gone and additional land was being rented.

At 32, Erik Jennewein has packed plenty into his short journey through life. Encouraged by his parents, Claudia and Karl, to travel and experience the world, his first big adventure was spending six months in the U.S. on a 4-H youth exchange program.

Today, the Jenneweins till 190 hectares (approximately 470 acres) across 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles). Rotational crops include sugar beets, winter barley for malt production, rape seed, and winter wheat.

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