Karl Luggin: “When I started they thought I was crazy.”
WORDS BY ROBERTA CORRADIN | PHOTOS BY LAURA SPINELLI
Trentino Alto Adige
“Pardon me, do you know where Karl Luggin’s farm is?”
“Oh, you’re going to that crazy Luggin’s place?”
And so it has always been – he who chases progress and thinks of the future is often taken for mad. It happened to Karl Luggin in 2000 when he decided he had had enough: enough of the life of a farmer that meant making sacrifices with hardly the compensation of seeing his fruit before it went out the door to be sold; enough of cooperatives that make their own prices, taking away his freedom to choose where and to whom he wanted to sell. Enough. Karl went home and laid out his plan. “Now, we’re doing everything ourselves. Apple juice, fruit vinegars, mustards, and we’re going to dry the fruit too, all of it, not just apples. Then we’re going to sell it.”
At the time, his wife Gertraud and his teenaged children looked at him, perplexed. What is papà talking about? Does he realize where we live? We’re not exactly in Milan or Vienna; we’re here, in Lasa, or – as all towns in Alto Adige have a second, German name – Laas. If you find yourself in Laas, you were probably born here; you don’t happen here by chance. Who are we going to sell to? Don’t fix what isn’t broken…
Karl, however, had already looked far ahead. He knew that in order to sell to someone other than one who has personally seen the fruit on your tree and shaken your hand, quality is not enough. The right packaging is necessary. Fortunately, a native of Lasa and friend of the family had a graphics advertising firm in Vienna, and offered to design a logo and the packaging. Now that the Luggins would no longer be simple suppliers of fruit, but selling their own, they needed a brand.
Karl chuckles good-naturedly as he remembers.
Everyone laughed, my family, the whole town … they looked at me, and they laughed.
But now that people come to Lasa on purpose to seek out their Weirouge apple juice, is it his turn to laugh? Karl shakes his head; he is too conscious of the future to laugh at them. “Now, I’m content. It’s nice to see people liking what I do.”
In the meantime, his children became adults. Now, they work with their father in the family company. Nadia helps her mother make compotes and vinegar while Gregor and Joaquim take care of the orchards. They added a second, larger fruit dryer – and it’s like magic when you put a dried strawberry in your mouth; all the flavor of the fresh fruit is conserved perfectly, and you can’t help but ask how they do it. You have your response after spending a day with the Luggin family. From the orchards to the fruit preservation, everyone wants to do his or her work as best as possible.
The fruit vinegars are fabuous with white meats, the Weirouge apple juice is rich in anthocyanids (healthy flavonoid pigments), the apricot and pear mustards add a light cheerfulness to salad vinaigrettes; and it is truly a pleasure to compare the juices made from different varieties of apples – we had fun creating our own juice classifications from sweet to sour. It’s a good thing that Karl Luggin is crazy. It wrings our hearts to think that, had he let himself be influenced by the laughter of others, his apples and fruits would have remained anonymous.