Company history Kiefer & Sester
The origins of our vine nursery date back to 1937, when Anton Kiefer grafted the first vines for his own use following the devastating phylloxera disaster. The cause was phylloxera, which was introduced to Europe from North America in the 19th century. At that time, European vines were propagated rootless, which made them extremely susceptible to root phylloxera. Phylloxera causes serious damage to the root system of European vines and leads to the death of the plants in a very short time. The rapid spread of phylloxera and the initial lack of effective control methods brought European viticulture to the brink of extinction.
The realisation that American wild vines had the necessary natural resistance to phylloxera marked the beginning of the use of these vines as rootstock for grafting. In the first third of the 20th century, Europeans began to fight phylloxera organically by planting grafted vines and Anton Kiefer was one of the pioneers of this revolutionary method.
The pictures show Anton and Rosa Kiefer at a somewhat older age. They ran the farm as a classic, mixed agricultural business with livestock farming, arable farming, forestry, viticulture and fruit growing from 1930 to 1965.
The passion for viticulture was passed on to the next generation of the Kiefer family. The son of Bottenau mayor and farmer Anton Kiefer and his wife Rosa, Josef Kiefer was born on 26 February 1936. After growing up on the Bottenau farm, he attended the agricultural school and the farmer's school in Tiengen. He then worked on his parents' farm.
In 1965, Josef and his wife Meta, born Schwab, walked down the aisle. He also took over the farm from his parents and gave up livestock farming in favour of fruit growing and viticulture.
In the same year, Josef Kiefer was one of the first in the region to start commercial vine grafting and integrated this as a permanent branch of the existing wine and fruit growing enterprise. He recognised the market for grafted vines in the Ortenau region of Baden, a wine-growing region with a long tradition and numerous awards. In the first year, 15,000 grafted vines were grafted by hand using tongue pruning.
In addition to the grafted vines, Josef Kiefer and his wife Meta produced grapes for the Oberkirch Winzergenossenschaft, strawberries, raspberries and currants. Forestry was also practised on the farm. The crops were cultivated by very arduous manual labour on steep vineyards in Bottenau. The picture also shows our farm in 1971.
Within a few years, the vine grafting company made a name for itself both regionally and internationally by selling grafted vines to protect against phylloxera. In 1985, Josef Kiefer decided to expand vine grafting and strawberry cultivation. As a result, the vine nursery and strawberry areas were moved to flat fields in the Renchtal valley and the steep vineyards were planted with vines and rootstock parent gardens. New methods and techniques made the work much easier. The picture shows Josef Kiefer grafting the vines with the first vine grafting machine.
To secure the future and succession of the business, the Kiefers brought Ralf Sester, a trained master fruit grower, into the company in 1997. Together they founded Kiefer & Sester GbR, which Ralf's wife Simone Sester joined two years later. The company was run jointly by the Kiefer and Sester families for ten years.
In 2007, Josef and Meta Kiefer stepped down from their responsibilities for reasons of age. The continuation of Kiefer & Sester GbR was thus placed in the hands of Ralf and Simone Sester.
Ralf and Simone Sester made the ground-breaking decision to completely restructure the company site in order to make the company fit for the future. In the middle of day-to-day business, the old company building was completely demolished and then completely rebuilt. This posed a huge challenge, as there were no cold stores or shelters for equipment and machinery available during this phase. Despite these adversities, the new company building was successfully constructed, creating the basis for a modern and more efficient operating structure. The first construction phase comprised the building of a warehouse with cold storage rooms, a work hall for the crafting work, an office and a private flat.
In 2012, we carried out our first major levelling in our own vineyard in collaboration with Schwörer Erd- und Wegebau. This involved moving large amounts of earth and filling in depressions to simplify cultivation and ensure efficient access for viticultural machinery.
In 2016, we carried out our second major levelling in another vineyard in collaboration with Schwörer Erd- und Wegebau. This involved moving large amounts of earth and filling in depressions to simplify cultivation and ensure efficient access for viticultural machinery.
In 2017, we acquired our own planting machine and launched our planting service in collaboration with Sascha Pfaff. Our primary goal is to make it easier for our customers to plant vines and provide them with the best possible support. In 2020, we took over the planting machine from Maschinenring Ortenau, which significantly increased our clout. This means we are particularly well equipped to carry out planting work extremely efficiently and meet the needs of our customers.
Due to the strong growth of our company in previous years, we reached the limits of our capacity, which restricted the further development of the business. At the same time, good accommodation and catering for our employees is very important to us. For this reason, we made a conscious decision in 2017 to tackle a second construction phase.
This investment included the construction of two floors of staff accommodation, which offer spacious, bright and well-equipped shared rooms, modern sanitary facilities and a spacious common room with a kitchen. A machine hall with workshop, a small distillery and a new woodchip heating system, which heats the entire business with wood from our own forest, were built on the ground floor.
In 2021, we launched our "Wellness for your plants" service in collaboration with GeleeVital® from Ehrenkirchen. With the help of GeleeVital®'s innovative soil additive mixtures, various problems in viticulture are solved in a single operation. The focus is on improving the water retention capacity, adjusting the pH value and enriching the soil with essential micronutrients. The result is an all-round healthier soil, which has an impact on the vitality of the plantation.
On 12 October 2022, we bid a deeply sad farewell to our founder and senior partner Josef Kiefer. He founded the vine grafting business together with his wife Meta and managed it successfully for many years. With tireless commitment and great determination, he drove forward the development of vine grafting and fruit growing.
At the same time, he was a valuable political advisor when it came to agricultural matters. He was passionate about political and voluntary work in various areas.
With his death, we have lost a personality to whom we owe a great deal. Josef Kiefer was highly respected and appreciated by everyone due to his greatness as a person and his professional expertise.
In 1992, Josef Kiefer received the Federal Cross of Merit from the Minister of Agriculture, Gerhard Weiser, for his political and voluntary work. The background to this was that Josef founded the CDU agricultural committee in 1969, which served as a mouthpiece for agriculture. Josef Kiefer provided numerous impulses for agricultural policy in the district, in the state and in Bonn. He was particularly committed to integrated fruit growing, near-natural production, but also to the preservation of the spirits monopoly and the cultural landscape with orchards. Josef Kiefer was a member of the CDU agricultural committee and the district council for a total of 25 years.
Josef Kiefer lived on the farm in Bottenau with his wife Meta Kiefer into old age, where he continued to provide active support. The picture was taken during grapevine sorting and shows Josef Kiefer with a bundle of grafts in his hands. He never lost his enjoyment and interest in the work of grapevine grafting until the end.
In 2023, Kiefer & Sester Reben GbR was dissolved and Kiefer & Sester GmbH was founded at the same time. We look forward to continuing our company history. To be continued...