Norman Leyda is a Senior Product Owner for The Independent Home (TIH) at Kiwigrid - but product development is not his only passion. He finds the perfect balance to his desk work on his small farm in Käbschütztal, between Leipzig and Dresden, which he runs with his partner. Combining office and farm work is sometimes a challenge, but the flexibility at Kiwigrid allows him to realize his dream of running his own farm. His colleagues also regularly benefit from this passion – for example, when Norman brings his harvest surpluses or fresh chicken eggs to the Kiwigrid office.
Norman's growing environmental awareness led him to Kiwigrid in 2015. He was looking for meaningful work that would provide him with a sense of actively addressing the climate issues affecting us today. It was also his love of nature that ultimately led him to move from the city to the countryside and set up his own farm. He gained his first experience of this in an allotment garden in Dresden. But the garden quickly became too small. Together with his partner, he started looking for a larger plot of land and found exactly that in Käbschütztal, around 30 km from Dresden, where 4500 square meters of land was available for free cultivation.
In the future, Norman wants to electrify the farm so that he can also use the product for which he is responsible as a Product Owner at home. The first major project is already being implemented: the listed old farmhouse is being converted into an "energy-efficient listed building". The clay walls are currently being renovated CO2-neutrally and a new, highly efficient and ecologically insulated roof is being built. A PV system is to be installed on the barn in the future. This is not so easy with an old roof, but if successful, the installation could reach up to a 60-kilowatt peak.
Full commitment to the farm adventure
Realizing the dream of having our farm took a lot of effort, especially at the beginning. Before the first beds could be planted, the farm had to be thoroughly cleared out. "The property resembled a garbage dump. The previous owner was an antique dealer and service provider for house clearance. He dumped everything he collected on this property: tons of car tires, dishwashers, furniture, and garbage. We had to dispose of that first," says Norman.
There is now a lot going on at the small farm. There are sheep, chickens, bees, cats, and plenty of fruit and vegetables. Norman and his partner like to experiment with vegetable growing in particular to see what works well and what doesn't. Due to climate change and the associated long dry spells, growing vegetables is a surprise every year. Chickpeas and soybeans, for example, have recently been a successful addition to the garden.
More than 50 percent self-sufficiency
Thanks to animal breeding and the cultivation of fruit and vegetables, Norman and his partner are now more than 50 percent self-sufficient. Potatoes, beet, pumpkin, peppers, garlic, lots of cabbage, radishes, radishes, lettuce, and up to 30 varieties of tomatoes grow in the beds. Raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries hang from the bushes in summer. As a software engineer at Kiwigrid, kiwis are, of course, a must, and there are 10 kiwi plants and seven different varieties of the small fruit on his farm.
Recreation and balance on your doorstep
Farm work and software development provide Norman with the perfect balance between physical exercise and mental challenge.
"Others go to the gym, jog or cycle after work to balance things out. I just go out the front door and work on my farm. This combines sport and relaxation in a very natural way."
Norman really appreciates the flexibility that his job offers him. For example, if the weather forecast predicts rain and the hay still needs to be brought in, he can adjust his working hours accordingly and simply work in the evenings. "Of course, managing a farm on top of a full-time job is a challenge, but the flexible working hours at Kiwigrid and the openness of my colleagues make it possible."
When the weather is good, Norman sometimes sits outside in his courtyard office, which has already led to one or two funny incidents:
"I was sitting in a meeting once and the sheep were grazing in the courtyard – and suddenly one of them bit my toe. This caused a big laugh in the meeting. You have moments like these here from time to time."