Johannes Gutmann

* 1965

  • "From the beginning, I told Tomáš Mitáček and the other employees that I did not come as a rich Austrian and a capitalist who wants to get rich quickly in the Czech Republic. I see Czechia as a vision: a neighbouring country where I want to develop something similar to Austria. I was interested in ecology, and organic farming, so that people eat healthily and work together, not against each other, because everyone wants to be richer and richer. I have always said that I had never taken the profit from the Czech Republic to Austria. What we earned in the Czech Republic, we also invested here."

  • "It was grown and dried in the Czech Republic. But it was not allowed to be mixed and processed there. In Austria, we had the advantage of being able to process and sell our products. That was not allowed in the Czech Republic. So we would transport it to Austria, mix it here, pack it and then bring it back to the Czech Republic. It was a pity, but in the beginning, it wasn't allowed to be done otherwise. We can also mix teas in the Czech Republic now; we are registered there. In the beginning, it was an advantage because the consumers in the Czech Republic did not trust Czech production. If someone came from abroad, from Germany or Austria, that was the best. Consumers did not trust Czech products. It only changed over time.”

  • "I knew the Czech agricultural system from school. That there were unified agricultural cooperatives. And that people had to put everything into those unified agricultural cooperatives. And that they thought that the yields would be higher that way. I visited an agricultural cooperative there and was surprised. I thought to myself that we could farm better on small areas in Austria. Of course, it is easier to work on large surfaces with large machines. But the truth is that here, with small farms, we have higher yields than a unified agricultural cooperative. I saw it in 1985 when I came to Prague as a tourist. As I drove by, I saw the fields. I saw the cities, the shops, and how the supply works there. When I came back, I was really very grateful that we had a different system in Austria."

  • Full recordings
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    Sprögnitz, 26.04.2022

    duration: 01:38:27
    media recorded in project Příběhy regionu - JMK REG ED
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A visionary from Austria became a pioneer of organic agriculture in Austria and post-revolutionary Czechoslovakia

Johannes Gutmann in 2022
Johannes Gutmann in 2022
photo: Post Bellum

Johannes Gutmann was born on June 23, 1965, in Zwettl, Lower Austria, and grew up in the nearby village of Sprögnitz, where his family made a living by farming. As the youngest son, he was supposed to take over the homestead from his parents, which, however, he did not want to. After graduating from the business academy in 1984, he agreed with his parents that his brother would take over the farm. He didn’t want to be a farmer, he longed for a business in organic farming. In 1985, he took a trip to Czechoslovakia and was surprised by the state of agriculture there: the absence of private farms, broad fields without bosques, and the level of chemical spraying. Three years later, he founded a company for producing bio-quality herbs and named it Sonnentor. After the Iron Curtain fell, he decided to expand his vision to Czechoslovakia, or the Czech Republic. In 1990, he met Tomáš Mitáček, a graduate of the Brno Agricultural University. Two years later, they established the Czech Sonnentor, which is based in Čejkovice today (the year 2022). The company employs around 450 people.