The Central Plateau («Mittelland») stretches from Lake Geneva in the southwest to Lake Constance in the northeast. It is the most densely populated region in Switzerland, and agriculture is practiced on about half of the area.
Our tour starts in the Seeland, also known as the "vegetable garden of Switzerland". In Ried b. Kerzers, the Gutknecht Gemüse farm gives us an insight into large-scale vegetable cultivation. A wide range of conventional and organic vegetables are grown in greenhouses and in the open field for sale to wholesalers and for the farm's own store. A special focus is placed on the heating of the greenhouses, which in the future will be fossil-free with district heating from a wood-fired power plant.
Andreas Scheurer's organic farm is located in Kallnach in the Bernese Seeland. His herd of Aubrac suckler cows consists of 10 cows and their calves. The herd enjoys free-range husbandry with summer pasture and winter exercise as well as littered lying areas. The feed consists exclusively of grass and hay, all of which is grown on the farm. The focus here is on the farm culling method used by Andreas Scheurer. The animals remain in their familiar environment until the end of their lives and are not separated from the herd. Thanks to farm slaughter, they are spared the stress of transport and slaughterhouse.
We arrive at Reto Minder's farm in Jeuss at midday. His only "farm animals" on the farm are earthworms. The president of Swiss No-Till has been advocating soil conservation tillage methods for many years. Among other things, he is known for no-till cultivation of Brussels sprouts. He is currently making new experiences with relay intercropping, whereby two main crops grow simultaneously in the same field. He hopes that this will increase the efficiency of fertilizer and pesticide use in open fields. We visit his fields and he shows us on site how his soils are developing.
Finally, we drive to the banks of the Broye Canal, where the brothers Léandre and Maxime Guillod planted the first wet rice fields north of the Alps between Lakes Murten and Neuchâtel. Wet rice is a classic niche product in Switzerland, but more and more farmers have become interested in growing it in recent years. Wet rice is an alternative on arable land with waterlogging that is difficult to drain. They are also proving to be a hotspot for biodiversity. They will introduce us to the production as well as the motivations for the cultivation of this exotic crop for Switzerland.
We will end our tour with a cozy dinner on the shore of Lake Morat.