Alpfarm Spiez, Switzerland
I volunteered at an alpfarm in Switzerland, near Spiez in Scharnachtal, june 2010. It was fun, hard work and interesting to experience.
In june 2010 I did volunteering work at a Swiss alp on a farmhouse near Spiez which produces bergkäse, alpine cheese from cows who eat fresh grass at 1200 meters (with no substitutes, fertilizers etc). The organization behind this is Caritas and their Bergeinsatz project. It was an interesting experience to see, perceive, observe the lives of alpine farmers in Switzerland, their lifestyles and preoccupations in the summer months where all the work is done.
This is what my day looked like:
I woke up before 6 am, helped out at the farm, while the farmer & assistant milked the cows not by hand but with industrialized machinery. After that the cows were let out of the barn (where they had been all night) and the volunteers cleaned the barn, got ride of cow manure and hay.
We had breakfast between 8-9 am and continued with the work, and feeding the baby bulls.
We helped out with whatever work that needed to be done, in the cheese manufacturing, babysitting, weeding, doing this & that at the farm or household work. The family had 3 children and a grandmother taking care of the babies, as well as doing most of the cooking.
Lunch was served around 12-13 am, and pretty sturdy cooked meal. We continued to help with various tasks, give at hand.
At 4 pm we had coffee, tea and something small to eat.
At 8 pm dinner was served, which was also cooked meal.
All of the meals were typical swiss food dishes, with white bread, butter, cheese, fresh milk, cream, and high carbohydrate meals with pasta, potatoes, meat accompanied with salad and lots of cheese/fat.
From this experience I have a pretty good view of a farmers life, and also a better understanding for the traditions in Switzerland, their culture, mentality and way of being.I would recommend such an adventure to any person who would like to know what Switzerland really is about. However there could be a language barrier if you don't speak the language of that region. Since I speak German and understand schweizerdeutsch, I managed however without the language skills it will be tough.