Utah Shares Swiss Dairy Heritage
Contributor: Taylor Hale, USU Dietetics Student and Dairy UTNV Intern
Nestled in Europe’s famous Alps, Switzerland is famous for creamy milk, abundant chocolate and decadent, smelly cheeses…. Sounds like a heavenly vacation spot for a dairy lover. Switzerland has been doing dairy right for a very long time and has deep rooted traditions revolving around their world famous dairy products. And some of those traditions have even make it to the mountains of Utah.
I had the incredible pleasure of living in Switzerland my last two years of high school and learned to love dairy in a whole new way. Nothing really beats a tall glass of fresh cold creamy Swiss milk after enjoying some melt-in-your-mouth Swiss chocolate, or hot bubbly fondue or racolette in the Swiss alps after a long day skiing.
Not only have they gone so far as making their national beverage, Rivella, from leftover whey from cheese making, but many long-time practiced Swiss traditions celebrate the country’s beloved cows and dairy families. One of my favorite traditions was the Alpine ascent and decent of the cattle, where the herds and farmers are wished off and welcomed back by the village after being at high altitudes all summer. The whole family dresses in traditional Swiss clothing and the cows and goats wear massive loud bells around their necks and elaborate flower headpieces. It is a beautiful festival where community compassion is felt and love for their treasured cows and dairy products are celebrated.
Visiting Switzerland or learning about their country’s traditional farm culture is really like taking a glimpse into the past. The average Swiss farmer owns about 25 dairy cows compared to traditionally larger farms in the United States. Dairy farmers also have been utilizing their lush mountains for hundreds of years by leading their herds to high elevation pastures in the summer months where they have small alpine huts for cheese making, while their fields in the flatlands grow hay. In the fall, they bring their herds back down to their lower altitude barns where the cows munch on hay for the winter and produce fresh milk for the markets.
Lucky for us, Switzerland is an origin for many of our local dairy farm families in Utah! In the mid 1800’s Swiss immigrants began migrating to Utah, with many Swiss communities settling in Midway and Cache Valley. In fact, the founder of Gossner Foods in Logan Utah came directly from Switzerland and founded the Swiss cheese plant in 1966. Edwin Gossner settled in Utah’s northern Cache Valley because it reminded him of home, and he deemed the area, “Little Switzerland of the Rockies.”
In Utah’s Midway Valley, Heber Valley Artisan Cheese has Swiss roots as well. The Kohler family traces their roots back to dairy farming in Switzerland and is now a 4th generation farm in Utah. So…it doesn’t take traveling all the way to the Swiss Alps to get a taste of Swiss dairy treasures.