Country That’s Big
Gruyère, the Graubünden, Valais, Romandy,
Appenzell, Thurgau—every part of Switzerland is
home to its own cheese enjoyed the world over.
And the country’s diverse culture and geography
makes for equally diverse cheeses.
blush, so many quality cheeses in such a small
country may seem surprising. But if we take a
The rolling fields of Switzerland are incredibly
diverse. Over millennia, the country has been
shaped by the people who live there, with each
region developing its own distinct character as
unspoiled lands and woodland were transformed by
But only a quarter of the country lends itself
to intensive farming—Switzerland remains, first
and foremost, a land of mountains, pastures, and
prairies that has managed to preserve the
traditions of family farming, with milk
production taking pride of place.
Family-run dairies with only a handful of
employees abound. Almost every village has its
own dairy; almost every road leads to its own
farm. It’s enough to make you think the Swiss
have never even heard of rural migration! Cows
are everywhere—and no wonder! The Swiss
jealously guard their centuries-old traditions
and are full of the good old common sense that
has deserted many modern farmers. Cows munch
contentedly on grass because the Swiss have no
truck with silage. It really is a farming
The Swiss love their cows, and milk production
is only a tiny part of the story. Here, quality,
not quantity, is king, and cows are a prized
part of the landscape. They are the future of
mountain farming—and something of a tourist draw!
It’s easy to see that Swiss farmers have always
worked hand in hand with nature.
Switzerland is home to 1.7 million cattle, which
are responsible for half the country’s farm
income. Some 3.8 billion liters of milk are
produced every year, four-fifths of which become
cheese, butter, cream, and yogurt. All Swiss
dairy products must meet exacting standards, and
cheeses are the perfect example of this
commitment to excellence, with a host of
designations and quality labels all their own.
In many respects Switzerland is the most
democratic of countries. It always seems to be
having a referendum on something or other—but
here cheese is definitely king!
Landscapes for Generations to Come
farming boasts two distinct phenomena: the
prominence of pastures and prairies, and the
unique way in which fields are divided up among
many. Protecting the landscape means preserving
both these features for generations to come.
Small properties are preserved thanks to the
country’s No. 1 farming policy: maintaining
rural family businesses. Meanwhile, a rock-solid
milk economy watches over the countless prairies
The main milk-producing areas are high up in the
Swiss mountains, and so their survival depends
on the survival of the mountain farmers who take
great care of the alpine vegetation, while
making hiking trails and wide-open spaces
available to all. Other efforts focus on the
plains to ensure crops do not spread too quickly
and forever alter the landscape.
As usual, the Swiss have everything under
control. Fond of their traditions, they have
always been keen custodians of their environment,
and you can be sure they will do everything in
their power to ensure farmers can continue to
till the soil, grow crops, and lead their
livestock across the mountain pastures—all to
produce goods of the highest quality and to
preserve the landscapes around them… until the
cows come home!
To learn more about Switzerland, visit