One of the things that surprised us at the beginning of our stay in Switzerland was the existence of so many family businesses. Whether they are construction companies, hotels, restaurants, painting shops, garages, bakeries or family farms. This tradition was also in our country in the past, but with the rise of the communists and after the collectivization family enterprises disappeared. In Switzerland, this violent interruption of family values did not take place; family businesses have had a tradition here for decades. That doesn’t change the fact that every generation has to put a lot of effort into it again and again.
The Röthlisberger family is already the third generation to cultivate fruit trees, especially apples, cherries and pear trees. They have a total of 8 hectares of apple orchards, a two-hectare apple orchard is located directly behind their farm in Ersigen and can be seen from afar. The self-service shop is located directly in the premises of their large, over the 200-year-old farmhouse. In addition to apples, honey, other fruit, and vegetables, depending on the season, the assortment also includes cider, for which they have received an award.
It is clear to me that fruit production means a lot of work. Could you please describe to me what work needs to be done in the course of one year in your orchard?
In January we cut all the fruit trees. There are 4 people pruning trees for two and a half months (we have about 1,600 trees). We also have to repair hail nets. In May (after flowering) we open the hail nets so that the trees are spared from hail. Very important is to observe pests and diseases and if necessary to react and spray. Watering the trees is of course also necessary. It’s time to adjust the curtain when too many fruits are thinned out by hand, i.e. cut off.
Every 14 days you have to mow the grass between the rows of trees. Mice control is a year-round activity.
Around the beginning of June, the cherry harvest starts – after picking up the cherries are sorted by hand, packed and ready for sale. The same comes with raspberries, plums, mirabelles, and peaches. The harvest of apples and pears begins at the end of August. This means the start in the cider dairy, the work lasts until about mid-November.
Then the hail nets must be tied together so that they are not destroyed by snow pressure. Machines that are used must also be “maintained” (i.e. cleaned and repaired).
Finally, we have to catch up on a lot of office work and plan for next year.
What kind of apples do you have on your farm?
Apples Gala, Diwa, Golden, Jonagored, Gravensteiner, Calmac, Boskoop, Rubinette, Pinova, Braeburn, Idared, Sweet-Tango, Delorque
Pears: Williams, Conference, Kaiser Alexander
Is your production organic?
No, we produce according to Suisse Garantie and Swiss Gap. We try to use as little as possible but as much as necessary pesticides.
Do you observe the “taste” of our customers? Which sorts are best to sell?
Yes, we observe customer consumption. Our strength is the variety of apple sorts and we try to offer everything from early varieties to stock varieties.
Could you please tell me where we can buy your apples and excellent sweet cider? Is it just in your shop or is it also available somewhere nearby?
We produce for the programme AdR (Aus der Region, für die Region/From the region, for the region – Migros). So our fruit is available in different Landi shops and various farm shops. Also in restaurants or canteens.
You cultivate on a total of eight hectares of fruit: part of it apples, part of it pears and cherries, is that right? Such a workload cannot be handled by two people, can it? Do you also employ temporary workers? Do you only employ Swiss people or foreigners as well?
We still have plums, mirabelles, and raspberries. We employ 2 permanent employees, 1 apprentice and during the season 10 part-time employees. We have both Swiss and foreigners.
Do you also have apprentices? What is your motivation to employ apprentices?
Yes, we always have an apprentice. Our motivation is to pass on our knowledge and thus maintain the next generation in our industry.
What are your plans for the future?
To bring stability to our daily work. We hope that today’s agricultural policy will not force us to give up our farm. Our farm shop is very important to us. We would like to market many products ourselves. It is very nice to see how many people appreciate buying the apples directly from us. Customer contact is very important
Would you be proud if your children took over the farm?
Of course, we would be happy if the fruit farm would be continued in some way. But we don’t want our children to impel to it, they should do what they enjoy doing. Who knows what happens to agriculture all these years…?
If you like to buy fruit from local farmers, surely do not forget to stop at Ersigen at Röthlisberger´s Obst & Most. You will find them at Hintergasse 3, 3423 Erisen.
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