Swiss mountain farmers are a vanishing breed

Hundreds of farms disappear each year in Switzerland. Some farms, especially mountain farms, are too small to survive. (RTS/

This content was published on October 16, 2014 - 11:00

They often rely on the support of charities, like Caritas, which sends nearly a thousand volunteers each year to help on farms for a few days or weeks at a time.

In some cases, farmers are forced to take up a second job just to make ends meet. They are constantly battling to survive and a bad year is all it takes for these farms to close down.
Even though Swiss farmers have access to government subsidies, these are often based on coming up with a new business model. This in turn often requires significant investment in modernisation that small farmers cannot afford, putting these subsidies out of their reach.
Those that manage to raise the capital to modernise are able to cope with the new realities thanks to the subsidies. These farmers see the subsidies as a salary for the important landscape services they provide and the high quality produce that comes out of their farms.
However, even these lucky farmers cannot remain complacent. They have to become market savvy in order to sell their produce and can no longer remain isolated from the wider world. The ones that succeed are more like entrepreneurs than the typical mountain farmers of yesteryears.

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