Fri, 18 Oct 2013 11:00:00 GMT | By The Hindu Business Line

A day on a Swiss farm

This was a media trip with a difference — Switzerland Tourism saw to it that 144 journalists from 33 countries got a real taste of rustic life in the tiny country.

A day on a Swiss farm (© AP)

The theme for this year’s media event was “Living Traditions”, and we were given a choice of tours in the lush green Alpine region of Appenzell, the picturesque Rhine lowlands in Schaffhausen Canton, and the cyclists’ paradise of Thurgau on Lake Constance, with its delightful little towns and villages.

Even for a rich country like Switzerland, known for its agricultural heritage — it is often called the nation of cows, cheese and chocolates — this is a hard time for farmers. Global economic blues have made things that much more difficult, and more than one farmer I met during my five-day stay said only a part of the family’s income came from farming, and often the spouse was engaged in part- or full-time teaching.

But there are some enterprising farmers, such as Doris and Heinz Morgenegg, who run their entirely organic Bolderhof Farm —spread over 29 hectares — in the beautiful Rhine lowlands in Schaffhausen Canton. Apart from growing vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, broccoli and various herbs, Heinz runs a dairy farm with 25 cows and 30 buffaloes; the nearly 300 liters of milk produced daily is used to either make cheese or sold directly to customers, says Daniela Maurer, who works at the farm.

The Morgeneggs also run a butchery, and calves, heifers and water buffaloes can be ordered online. “Our customers can tell us exactly what sort of meat they’d like and how it should be cut.” Totally self-sufficient, the farm is run entirely on solar power. “Actually we produce more power than we need, so we sell it to the Government,” says Heinz.

But along with dairy and other produce, which is insufficient to provide a decent livelihood for his family, Heinz says he and his “boss” (wife Doris) decided a few years ago to organise tourism-related activities and corporate events — all in the rustic backdrop of his farm. Cow trekking is one of these, and the couple offers various forms of accommodation: private rooms, dormitory, and straw or holiday home. Heinz said the organic kitchen catered to all kinds of events: “Farmers’ brunch, BBQ, dinner, coffee and cakes… whatever our customers want… our kitchen is one of only 20 fully qualified ‘Bio Suisse’ catering places in Switzerland.”

This farmer’s ambition and innovative zeal are boundless; besides cow trekking, cheese-making and other fun activities are on offer here. In winter, too, there is plenty of buzz on his farm; “we have now created a new event area that can seat up to 250 for a very special Christmas dinner,” he smiles.

Heinz conducted his cheese-making class with as much authority as humour for the visiting group of 14 journalists.

A day on a Swiss farm (© Reuters)

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