Sonja Schossleitner grew up in a flat in Strobl. When she moved for love to the Eislbauerhof at the other end of the Wolfgangsee to St. Gilgen in 2011, she had no idea about agriculture. However, the product manager for golf clubs gave up her decent job and took the plunge. Today she runs one of a total of nine Archehöfen in Salzburg, along with her husband Andreas.
Professionally speaking, Sonja comes from a technical background. A 15-year-long career at the internationally renowned sport supplies producer, Komperdell, in Mondsee and the responsibility for developing the field of golf clubs is not so easily thrown away as one may think. However, her outlook on life changed dramatically when Andreas entered her life in 2008. ‘My life took on a completely different meaning’, Sonja explains of the feeling of finding a purpose after years of searching.
The Eislbauerhof is not a classic agricultural business, it is an Archehof; a home and breeding ground for rare breeds of livestock. Up here, with a view of the Wolfgangsee, you can find Pustertaler Sprinzen cattle, Pinzgauer cows and goats, as well as Sulmtaler and Altsteirer chickens. The former were traditionally widespread throughout the Alpine region as robust cattle. However, the post-wat treaty between Austria and Italy meant that the local cattle from the Pustertal were forbidden here in the 1920s. South Tirol as enemy territory.
‘Food is there to sustain life. Basta.’
The farmer from St. Gilgen speaks with deep conviction and a touch of relaxed preachiness about the philosophy of the Archehof and the importance of not giving up. At the turn of the century, there were still over thirty farms in the local area here. Today, there are only five. When she took over Andreas’ parents’ farm, the future still seemed very uncertain. The chamber of agriculture was there with some disconcerting advice at the time. ‘Give it up’, the officials said from afar, as anything else wouldn’t make sense with a business of this limited site. For the two motivated young farmers, this was not an option, and somehow they came up with the idea to change course and follow the model of the Archehöfe. A decisive switch in direction, or better said, a courageous step back, but one which will allow you to progress much further forward. This resulted in stepping back from high-yield farming.
‘Children don’t know what purple carrots are any more’.
You can book a room and breakfast at the Archehof. Tourists who do this are able to enjoy an excellent organic breakfast, which may not be as extensive or diverse as some guests might expect at first, but in terms of the content, it has much more to offer, with 15 types of sausage and 10 varieties of cheese. ‘People often complain about the independent farming industry dying out, but then go to the supermarket and buy products containing eggs from battery farming’, says the self-assured farmer, passionately. She thinks that something needs to be done about this.
However, the philosophy of sustainability goes much further than the breakfast menu here. At the Schlossleitners’, you can find fruit trees in the garden and furniture made from recycled farm materials. An old cage door can become a new wardrobe for the guest room. And in the bathrooms, there are older tiles that are still in place. ‘In the sense of sustainable closed loop recycling, you don’t have to get involved with each and every design trend’, the farmer says drily, and she’s right.
‘Accommodation with a view of the Wolfgangsee’
The guests, mainly from Germany and Austria, but increasingly from Switzerland, mostly value the minimalist holidays the farm offers and the countless things to do around Schafberg, Zwölferhorn, and the Wolfgangsee. On the one hand, it attracts the more active tourists who enjoy hiking and cycling, but on the also the culture fans who primarily wish to explore the city of Salzburg, but don’t want to stay in the inner city. She herself doesn’t is staying put, and believes that she has ‘a paradise at her front door’.