Study visit to Austria

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The goal of the study trip was to let young Hungarians get to know the Austrian application of the Common Agricultural Policy and to introduce the agricultural production methods, specialities, and the legal regulations that can be found in Austria.

In the framework of the study visit, in order to gain a wide range of professional experience the participants visited every  major local representative in the province between 16–19  November, 2011. So they had the chance to exchange experience with not only local farmers, but also with the staff of the LEADER Local Action Group, with young professionals, and with the leader of the local market.
During the study trip, they visited the wholesale market of Vienna. The market with a territory of more than 300 thousand square metres is one of the largest ones in Central Europe. It has also high significance in the region regarding its traffic: in average, 300 thousand tons of food is traded there in a year. In the market that is also called to be one of the central players of the Austrian food trading network, 70 percent of the domestic vegetable and fruit traffic is transacted, and almost half of the domestic flower trade is also done here. There is not another market in the country comparable to it. The market is optimally situated. It can be reached from most of Vienna easily, so getting here does not represent a problem for sellers coming from other Central Eastern European countries. On an average day, approximately 2500 trucks and more than a thousand cars arrive to the area of the market. It should also be mentioned that the ownership of the market (therefore the reality also) is in the hand of Vienna's local government, but a kind of privatisation pressure has been exerted on it in recent years that makes the future doubtful for them. As a negative trend, it can be reported that various multinational retail chains are gaining ground that showed up in settlements with smaller and smaller population recently. A consequence of this is that the amount of direct seller-buyer contact is more and more reduced, so traditional forms of food trading like this may lose their significance over time.

The province of Upper Austria gave home for the programs and first of all the group travelled to Bad-Wimsbach – Neydharting, 50 km away form Linz. Here, the representative of Wels Island Region's Leader Local Action Group waited for the delegation and provided general information about the work of the LAG, the special characteristics of the area of their competence, and about the Leader Program, as a bottom-up approach to  rural development. The LAG Wels Island Region was established in 2007, with the involvement of 21 nearby villages, basically with the aim to support smaller enterprises that are operating in the region and contribute to their survival. In addition, priority areas are tourism (especially rural tourism) and investment based on green-energy, as well as supporting young local people. The work organization is strong financially, as during the 2007-2013 EU planning period, it received 80 million Euro from EU development subsidies, of which less than half is used.
As the next step of the travelling the participants visited a family farm, which participates in the program. The farm, which operates the outskirts of the village, is a complex and diversified family business. The interest of the location is next to different production units here, they sell locally, with the help of a small business or honour-register next to the road. In the family business house only own products are offered as pasta, jam, spices, meat and merchandise as well. The latter is especially pork and goose meat, as these are the main part of the farm's livestock. Their products are of course sold not only here, but they deliver cold dishes, prepared meals (catering) to small shops, for events as well. Biscuits are also produced by home recipes. They are farming on 35 hectares land, of which on 30 hectares of cereal production is produced, on the rest vegetables are grown. This farm size is slightly larger than an average farm in Austria (27 hectares). On the farm, however, extra labour is generally not employed, the family can carry out tasks of the farm. The farmer emphasised his opinion, that a farm is viable because the Austrian buyers insist on Austrian products, and even food produced in the province.
After this, the local rural development expert guided the group in a small town, Marchtrenk, where they visited a recreation house which was built for the local rural youth. The aim of the "JuWel"  program is designed to offer an alternative way of entertainment for young people who are looking for it. This is basically a mixed funding (state / local governments), non-profit organization. Primarily it aims at teenagers aged 12-18 years, including children of families with foreign roots, who sometimes lack language skills. The opening hours quite limit their opportunities, because only weekday afternoons they are open between  5-10 pm. Therefore, the leaders of the youth house do not want to compete with the city's discos, instead they offer a different kind of entertainment. Here, young people can say what should be included in the offered program, or they organise events for themselves. The consumption of alcohol and drugs is strictly prohibited at the place. The participants asked, what makes this place attractive for an average Austrian young people, and the answer we got here was that, unlike with a nightclub, real communities are forming here, personal relations can develop among young people.
Among 21 municipalities, 12 have such community centres. The institution of Marchtrenk has been operating for nine years. According to the program manager - who formerly was a police officer - 20 young people come together here on an average day, but there are occasions in a month, like a disco or sport competition, when there are multiple guests. In Austria in the recent years, the situation of youth and rural community has got a considerable support, so leaders can expect the  expansion of subsidy.
During professional visit on Friday, the participants started with getting to know a completely new kind of local  initiative. The program named OTELO is a creative workshop for young people, which covers a special type of educational approach. It mostly covers after-school activities, so it is not designed specifically for direct teaching activity, but rather a kind of thinking and approach of acquisition and transferring. This does not mean the lack of specific technical training, as young people are involved in the workshop's tangible works. Such as an example is the 3D printer,the development of which occurs within the framework of OTELO programme.
The inventors of OTELO idea have realized the problem, that those community areas are missing from rural settlements, where new ideas, or as the professional said, as a sort of incubator for creative ideas could be welcomed. The institution's educational and research profile would be  difficult to keep according to different topics. Next to the various science concepts, the  the support of art, folk art, the world of media is visibly present.  Moreover, the local OTELO operates a local radio station, where they can periodically advertise the projects, upcoming events, or the achieved results. In addition, the experts of the workshop emphasized that they want a give a place for talks, too, which is not possible in a typical school classroom. According to them, there are a number of topics in public education today that are not getting enough attention, or are not sufficiently spoken of. As an example, the concept of democracy was mentioned, about which we know what does it means, we use the phrase every day, but some of its dimensions are not clear.
Another important element of the project is that it brings together generations, they meet with each other, local people with different life experiences can work together. The phrase of "brain-storming" was also mentioned, referring to the birth of creative ideas, group or community aspect. The OTELO is public space, creative workshop, which mainly aims at young people, but does not want to interfere the work from the top, aiming instead at what communities determine themselves to need in a creative way.
The OTELO program - concerning its construction – is a multi-part complex unit, its basic unit is node (node, meeting point). In such a node at least 5 people work. Here we talk about a multi-level hierarchical organization, at the bottom of which there is an idea supervised by a "think-node" model. This is followed by a "game-node", whose members receive the necessary technical support, and through them we got to the so-called"project-node"level, who are working actually on the implementation. The professionals, who work here and the workshop is almost completely independent economically, the operation of OTELO program is financed by the local entrepreneurs.
The group visited the OTELO house, which is nice-looking building and has a particular interior space with more floors, which worked formerly as a music school, but in the lack of young people it had to be closed. The OTELO program began in 2008 with the support of Upper Austria, but the visited workshop, started its real work in April 2010. In the province, these creative youth clubs has been organised on a regional basis, next to the institutions, which are having a central role, a number of open workplaces, where the admittance is free.

The next program of the day, was the visiting of farmers' market in Salzkammergut. The market itself is settled in a typical Austrian town, in the heart of a “hütte”. It has been operating since 1988, initially it was formed with the involvement of 20 administrators, now 14 producers have selling space. At the beginning, the neighbouring farmers were selling their products from trailer, but today they have a place in a modern indoor hall, however it imposes a limit on further expansion. From the side of the farmers, who produce goods in the region, there is a pressure on the farmers' market, as more and more people have expressed their intention to join (90 candidates), which makes the members unhappy, because they are afraid rightly of the concurrence.
The market is open every Friday between 1-5pm. Three bakers, two butchers, two vegetable producers (one organic), and a cheese producer wait for the customers. Typically, small-scale, family farmers are present as sellers, who do farming on 20-30 hectares in average. For these small family farms the farmers' market offer a good opportunities, because Austrian consumers from  nearby consciously seek food from the region, while the larger firms do not have time to deal with these demands. Every day,  an average of 700 people visit here, but as the leader says, in Austria you can also feel the end of the month, as then there are significantly less purchasers. The sellers have annual contracts with the market, price of a stand is 6000 € per year. The product range is relatively constant, although it can show some seasonality. Before the holidays, for example, various sweet breads, special spirits appear on the shelves etc.. The market operates an own website, where next to the entire product sets, Christmas recipes can be found as well.