Find the real Switzerland in your farm shop

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The success of the modest farm shop lies in a long-standing pillar of Swiss culture – trust.

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R.If you read enough travel reports about Switzerland, you might think it’s all about the Big 5: skiing, chocolate, watches, fondue and spas. This is of course not the real Switzerland, especially not for us here. Ask locals, expats, refugees, and immigrants what they love about the country, and there is often a chorus of approval that doesn’t quote any of the above.

His is one of the most valued qualities in multilingual Switzerland Culture of high trust. No need to scan tickets to board trains or trams; Restaurants send you bills instead of bills at the end of meals; People always-always– appear on time, even if you made the plan months ago. And the epitome of this culture of trust is in the countryside, where you’ll find hundreds of independently run, unoccupied, honorary farm shops. Called farm shop in Swiss German, she Selling local produce, cheese and meat, with nothing but a till where you write down what you bought and deposit your own money.

But these aren’t your mom’s cold cuts. Expect homemade venison sausage, smoked ham and unique alpine cheese. You will also find tasty home-made yogurts, goat’s milk butter, home-made carrot cakes, freshly picked apples and rustic farmhouse breads. There is no written requirement, but generally everything in a farm shop comes straight from the farm they are on and is usually cheaper than the supermarket.

Farm shop paints a more precise picture of Switzerland: its independence, the trustworthiness of its neighbors and the communal economy. They offer hyperseasonal, sustainably grown, local foods, a system that evolved from centuries of harsh alpine necessity, and not an urban dining fad. Ultimately, farm shops are about trust between people and the humanity of the food. They are especially appealing as we are all slowly re-examining how we travel and adapt to life in what will hopefully be a post-pandemic age.

During the pandemic, my husband and I spotted dozens of local farm shops on back country roads on Sunday drives (our escape from the riot in our Zurich apartment). The shops, restaurants, bars and museums in Switzerland were closed for several months during the lockdown. But the farm shop stayed open – you don’t have to close if nobody is working there anyway.

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For visitors, renting a car is the best way to string up a farm shop road trip. There’s even a new website called Swiss milk this is shown on most farm stalls. You won’t find them in tourist ski areas. Instead, you’ll have to go off-piste to hidden valleys where vegetables and fruits grow, and to hills neatly topped with spun bundles of hay, chocolate boxes, and of course cows. Every imaginable type: red, blonde, black and white, jet black. Some farm shops are simple wooden sheds, others are hollowed out barns next to farmhouses, and others are roadside kiosks. Most are along rural roads in the hinterland that connected the merchants of the country’s cantons before the Swiss motorways were built in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mosigen cheese dairy

One such farm shop that we discovered this winter was Mosigen cheese dairy near the canton of Lucerne Entlebuch, referred to as UNESCO World Heritage Biosphere Reserve for its highland moors, karst formations and wild alpine streams that few tourists ever see. Summer is the ideal time to visit, but all of the alpine biodiversity was covered by a thick blanket of snow during our gray January visit.

We set out from Zurich to do a barn tour (my husband is an architect). This area is also known for its alpine forest roof, a Hip roof style found on Emmental farmhouses, which we passed many on the way. We got hungry and found that nothing was open. Farm shop to the rescue. Mosigen is both farm shop and a Dairy, a cheese factory, and the shelves were jam-packed. Literally. Plum compote, cherry jam, apple jellies and other jams, jellies and jams lined the walls. Several refrigerators were stocked with things like ham (Fireplace ham, named after the smoking in the fireplace) and a huge selection of Emmentaler Cheese. This area is also the source of the “Swiss cheese”, the famous butter cheese with holes. Nobody in Switzerland calls it Swiss cheese; here it says Emmentaler, named after the region. So we filled ourselves with a fondue party worth quark, including bits of a 12-month-old and a cave-aged Emmentaler.

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Some farm shops are mere roadside kiosks. This is the case of Susy’s farm shop, hidden in the village of Seewen in Canton of Solothurn. On a drive back from Alsace in France, just an hour’s drive from Zurich, we came across Susy’s last summer. It was a failed mission to find citrus green Reine Claude plums (called Greengages in England, but named here after the French Queen Claude, the 16th century Duchess of Brittany). As we meandered through country lanes with a suitcase full of Alsatian kraut, Riesling and Kugelhof, I spotted a table in the street with boxes by Reine Claudes, stacked like moss-covered golf balls. We stopped and invited, only to be lured by the smell of Susy’s freshly baked bread.

she hofelädeli was full to the brim with homemade bread – hearty farmer’s breads, olive breads, baguettes, pretzels filled with a thick layer of butter and a few different flavors summit, the Swiss German word for croissant, including volkorn and lye summit, (a popular Swiss hybrid of pretzel and croissant). Obviously Susy has a sweet tooth, because there were pastries everywhere – glazed mini carrot cakes, shimmering strawberry tarts, muffins, cinnamon rolls and rolls filled with sausage or topped with walnuts. A refrigerator next to the bread boxes was filled with salami sandwiches and cold drinks such as apple horli (sparkling apple wine). To pay, we tossed several thick five-franc coins into the box, which made a satisfying bang. And that was it. No receipt, no touch. no how are you doing dudankemaam. Eat. Money. Go.

Not all farm shops can be reached by car. We discovered while hiking around the hilly green Jura hills at the gates of Zurich Leimbihof farm shop. The old, weathered sole farm is located on hiking trails an hour’s walk from our apartment in the largest city in Switzerland, but is surrounded by cows, pigs, nut and pear trees. This farm shop only sold Bio-Suisse food, including Swiss rapeseed oil, local beer and wine, sheep’s milk yoghurt, pear molasses, homemade herbal teas, elderflower syrup and locally pressed cider. There were mini cups of homemade ice cream alongside wrapped pieces of local antibiotic-free Swiss beef, pork and chicken in the freezer. There was also a self-service coffee maker. But what I like best at the Leimbihof is the 12 hours Raw milk vending machine. For CHF 1.50 you can put (or buy) your own bottle in the vending machine to receive a liter of cold, fresh, unpasteurized raw milk. The milk is never older than 12 hours and comes from the 48 pretty cows on the wildflower-strewn pastures around the stable. These milk vending machines are widespread at farm shops and offer the best opportunity to carry out a quality control on site with the local meadow ladies. Like many farm shops, the Leimbihof also accepts electronic payment methods such as twin.

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