Hünenberg, 21.05.2024

Special agricultural zone to be created for fruit growing

A special agricultural zone is to be created for the Boog family's farm – we list the most important questions and answers about the forthcoming vote.

Fruit and vegetables are currently grown in Drälikon by the Boog family - in a special way. A new zone is planned to create a legal basis for this, and a municipal vote on this will take place in Hünenberg on 9 June. It all concerns the 'Buuregarte special agricultural zone', and there will be an information evening in the Heinrich von Hünenberg hall on Tuesday, 21st May.

What exactly is being voted on?
Specifically, voters will decide on a partial revision of the zoning plan and the building regulations. The Drälikon area is to be converted into a 'special agricultural zone'. Within this zone, it is "explicitly permitted to produce in substrate, instead of in soil", as stated in the voting brochure. With this cultivation method, plants are not planted in the soil, but in a substrate, such as coconut fibres. It is also permitted to cover the crops over a large area. The zone is necessary in order to continue the Boog family's "Buuregarte" business. They have been growing fruit and vegetables in Drälikon for five generations, and their business is currently located in the agricultural zone (Landwirtschaftszone).

How did this vote come about?
Planning has been underway since 2016, but, until now, there has been no legal basis for the type of cultivation practised by the Boogs. In 2013, the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgericht) ruled that horticultural and vegetable growing operations in the agricultural zone would only conform to zoning regulations if they were predominantly soil-dependent. In other words: grown directly in the soil. At "Buuregarte", however, around half of the crops are grown in substrate, as Jonas Boog explained to the Zuger Zeitung newspaper last autumn. The Boog family also use foil tunnels to protect the crops from rain and hail. Following the judgement of the Supreme Court, these cultivation methods were deemed to be non-compliant with the zoning regulations, so action was necessary. Planning has taken so long because there were dependencies on the ongoing renovation of the Reuss dam.

What are the aims of this proposal?
The aim is to continue operations in accordance with the zoning regulations and to create the basis for future expansion opportunities. The Boog family are also considering the construction of greenhouses in the long term. According to the documents, this could further reduce the water requirement and further reduce the use of pesticides.

What exactly does the 'special agricultural zone' mean?
There is an area plan that defines the division of the new zone into four areas: farm area, greenhouse area, tunnel area and nature area. An environmental design plan has also been drawn up, and provides for measures to blend in with the landscape and for ecological equalisation. A 50-metre-wide wildlife corridor will also be demarcated, and the maximum heights for buildings and facilities will be specified in the tunnel and greenhouse areas: 5 metres in the tunnel area and 7 metres in the greenhouse area.

The strawberries are currently ripe: Jonas Boog at the harvest
Fruit grower Jonas Boog in the strawberry field               
View of the Hünenberg Reuss plain: the foil tunnels are clearly visible                Photos: Matthias Jurt

What do the local political parties say?
All the local political parties in Hünenberg are in favour of the special agricultural zone. The FDP (Liberal party), for example, writes that the Boog family runs the "Buuregarte" with a lot of energy and innovation. The GLP (Green Liberals) also believes that a yes vote is necessary "to prevent even more goods being imported into Switzerland from abroad". The SVP (Swiss People’s party) also emphasises the importance of supporting "regionally producing, locally anchored and future-oriented agriculture". The Centre party writes that "the Boog family cares deeply about their farm - and so do we." The SP (Socialist party) sees the new zone as a "valuable step" towards preserving the regional production of more than 30 agricultural products. The Green Forum also shares this view: "Buying locally is already a major saving in terms of environmental emissions," says the party.

What does the municipal council say?
The municipal council (Gemeinderat) and the planning and building commission recommend approving the partial revision of the zoning plan and building regulations.

Are there any critical voices?
There were objections from three parties during the public consultation, one of which was subsequently withdrawn, as can be seen from the submission. The objections mainly centred on privacy, the glare effect of the films and the appearance of the surroundings. The large-area plastic canopies are visible from afar, which was criticised by residents living on the Sonnhaldenstrasse. As a result of the objections, adjustments were made to the project. A fast-growing poplar species is to be planted instead of a hedge, and will serve as a kind of privacy screen.

What happens if the new zone is rejected?
The Boog family has been running the farm for just over 100 years and, for them, the existence of their farm is at stake. On their homepage, they write: "The protected cultivation of many berry crops is more resource-efficient, more sustainable and, due to the extreme weather conditions and quality requirements that we all have, absolutely essential." If the bill fails at the ballot box, the farm would have to comply with conventional agricultural zoning regulations, and the Boog family would have to dismantle their non-zoned buildings and facilities.

An orientation event will take place at 8 pm on Tuesday, 21 May in the "Heinrich von Hünenberg" hall.