TractorsCulti­vating opti­mism in Alsace where corn is king

Believe it or not, the Vix family were all born on June 26. Wendelin Vix, hale and hearty at 87 years old, has passed on his love for farming to his son Jean-Marc and his grandson, François. Visiting this person­ality of Alsa­tian agri­cul­ture was well worth the trip, 26 years after doing a first report in the French edition Le Sillon. Let’s redis­cover care­fully managed La Neumatt Farm, based in Wantzenau (Lower-Rhine), where corn is king and cause for opti­mism.

For his 80th birthday, Wendelin Vix has brought together his souvenirs in a beau­tiful, abun­dantly illus­trated book. Not only has he retraced his child­hood during the German occu­pa­tion, the Second World War and the Liber­a­tion, but also his three years of war in Algeria. Back home at the end of 1958, he bought his first tractor, a 25hp Man, with a plough and cutterbar, then a welding set to adapt the imple­ments. Married to Annette in 1962, he had three chil­dren, Michel (who unfor­tu­nately died suddenly in 2014), Marie-Jeanne and Jean-Marc, who succeeded him as head of the farm busi­ness, before François, his grandson, took over his parents’ share, in October 2022.

The Vix EARL culti­vates 130ha of grain maize, of which 80% bene­fits from irri­ga­tion thanks to the Rhine river.

A hard worker, with instinct

At the start of the 70s, a project for extending a chem­ical company factory over 150ha was aban­doned, giving the farmers in Wantzenau the oppor­tu­nity to expand. A small group of them invested in more powerful trac­tors, and a combine harvester. “We were told we would fail, remem­bers Wendelin, but my calcu­la­tions proved to be correct.” Guided by a note­book where his father Aloyse had noted the ideal geometric loca­tion for working and above all for mech­a­nising the produc­tion of hops, Wendelin made his name with the Hop Planters Asso­ci­a­tion of Alsace (Cophoudal).

Inno­v­a­tive, he was one of the first in the region to irri­gate maize, to the extent that seed producer KWS asked him to start producing maize seeds, costly in both time and labour, but prof­itable. Wendelin, who had “maize in his blood,” went on to develop the irri­ga­tion system, before passing to another big project in 1973 together with his brother-in-law, René.

Front row, Wendelin, Jean-Marc and François Vix, in front of four gener­a­tions of their John Deere trac­tors; second row, Elliot Hirsch, appren­tice farmer and Florent Kress, a neigh­bour passionate about ancient machines.

Both of them aban­doned maize drying in cribs (air drying) in order to invest in a combine with corn header, a dryer and storage silos. With the land used for maize now being avail­able earlier in the autumn, the two men bought a shiny John Deere 4230 with SG2 cab, and all the equip­ment needed for the 120hp of the tractor to grow wheat.

“You must believe that we were right on target as numerous colleagues followed us,” remem­bers Wendelin. Curious by nature, our man visited France, Europe and the United States, where he looked round the John Deere factory in Waterloo and the Head Office in Moline. For the occa­sion, he took English lessons in Stras­bourg. He made seven further over­seas trips with Annette.

Land made for corn

In 1997, the EARL Vix limited company was created, and Jean-Marc took over the La Neumatt farm. At that time the farm covered about 160ha and was frag­mented into 50 culti­vated patches. It is focussed on the core activity, irri­gated grain maize, which covers about 130ha every year. The land is of good quality and the Rhine water table stable and avail­able. Three, four-span elec­tri­cally oper­ated irri­ga­tion pivots were installed in 2020.

The largest plot that François Vix culti­vates offers deep loamy soil. With irri­ga­tion, the average yield is around 12.3t/ha of corn.

“Our largest land parcel, about 50ha, has rarely disap­pointed us. So, we continue to culti­vate in a proven manner, based on ploughing and careful seedbed prepa­ra­tion by twin­ning trac­tors in front and behind,” explains François Vix, who took over managing the farm in October 2022 after acquiring his parents’ share in the busi­ness. Today, it extends to around 220ha.

Along­side maize, soybeans were intro­duced success­fully, yielding up to 4.3t/ha. Cereals are mostly seeded using a three metre John Deere 750 A direct drill. This drill’s well-estab­lished planting tech­nique has satis­fied the clients of the Agri­cul­tural Work Company (AWC) that François and Etienne Schneider created. In parallel Etienne runs a Red Label (recog­nised quality) poultry farm. The two colleagues share equip­ment and exchange infor­ma­tion. François sums things up by saying: “We always manage to balance things out.”

Maize storage is controlled thanks to the instal­la­tion designed by Wendelin Vix back in 1975, with a 25t bin, large enough to process all the harvest and to sell it after­wards by full lorry loads to local starch and semolina producers. During one of his first trips to the United States Wendelin noticed mobile gas fired driers, which he acquired to end the heavy work asso­ci­ated with the cribs. This equip­ment, which more than paid off a long time ago, is still used today, under the watchful eye of François, to produce more than 20t of kernel per cycle.

Care­fully main­tained machinery

From his early start as a farmer, Wendelin Vix believed in quality to differ­en­tiate himself. He explains: “In 1973, we bought the John Deere 955 combine for its threshing cylinder with eight bars in place of the usual six. We work the machine at 400rpm, only for the corn, to reduce kernel breakage.” Still faithful to John Deere for harvesting, François Vix and Etienne Schneider have been able to take delivery of a new S670, but to keep the clients of the AWC happy, will keep the 2258 which is still going strong despite its 23 years and 4,000 hours. “I find that the machines have become easier to main­tain,” Etienne notes. I spend more time greasing the headers than I do greasing the S670.

Pioneer of maize seeds in Alsace, among other achieve­ments. Wendelin Vix, here close to his dear wife Annette, holds his souvenir album in his hands. With almost 50 passionate pages, the Liber­a­tion of 1945, his life as a farmer, as a father and union repre­sen­ta­tive, are all reviewed here. He has not forgotten to empha­sise the central role played by mech­a­ni­sa­tion nor to mention the report that Le Sillon conse­crated to his family in 1997.

A good mechanic, François Vix puts the last hand on the 16-16 Lanz from 1955, a French tractor that he was able to buy from a German collector before giving it a second youth.

Pride of the family, a collec­tion of 24 trac­tors, some­times dragged out of bram­bles and repaired by François, are under cover on the Vix farm, as well as a Lanz combine and a Fahr binder.

Another example concerning satis­fac­tion with quality is the Max Emerge Plus planter with six rows, which has covered 4000ha without fault, other than changing discs. François Vix agrees: “We like to keep the equip­ment clean; we main­tain it to last for a long time. For example, I don’t hesi­tate to entrust the machines to the nearby Haag dealer for an Expert Check service during winter.” The trac­tors bear witness to the Vix’s dedi­ca­tion to main­te­nance of their machines. They cover several gener­a­tions, including a 4955 and a superb 8100, and in support of the main tractor, a 7230R from 2019, bought second hand with 1,000 hours.


  • Six John Deere trac­tors
  • Two combines
  • One 15t capacity chaser bin
  • One self-propelled sprayer with 32m booms
  • Three ploughs including one seven-blade-plough
  • One seedbed prepa­ra­tion machine, 7.50m wide
  • One John Deere fixed chassis six row planter with front hopper
  • One “extra wide” centrifugal fertiliser spreader
  • Three elec­tric powered irri­ga­tion stands
  • One direct John Deere 750 A seed drill
The fleet of trac­tors includes six John Deere, notably a 7230R from 2019, an 8100 from 1994 and a sump­tuous 4955, still used for ploughing or trans­port. The 700 model from 1958 is kept for senti­mental reasons: it is iden­tical to the Lanz that Wendelin Vix bought in 1954, before John Deere bought the brand from Mannheim to install it in Western Europe.


The young farmer is aware of his assets: good quality land, access to water for irri­ga­tion, and an Alsa­tian envi­ron­ment with promising oppor­tu­ni­ties. But workers are almost impos­sible to find, now that Jean-Marc, his dad, wants to take his well-earned retire­ment. François uses an RTK guid­ance system, to which he has access through the Haag dealer: “It allows me to often work at night, to take advan­tage of the best weather condi­tions.” The yield mapping func­tion­ality on the new S670 combine, inter­ests him greatly, in partic­ular for trying out dose modu­la­tion of the seeds.

François notes a rare advan­tage of climate change: “We can now culti­vate late vari­eties of corn, with a 450 index, even 500, which have great poten­tial.” Restric­tions on the use of fertiliser worry him more. As to access to pesti­cides in the future, François Vix makes little fuss about it. “If we are given the time, why not evolve towards organic?” Opti­mism but not without realism, a wholly Alsa­tian approach.