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spinach complement the more traditional produce. He willingly grows asparagus because of the high client demand, even though it ties up one of his plots for twelve years. While he would prefer to sell only in-season fruits and vegetables because of their high quality and freshness, Alexandre knows that in order to best serve his loyal clients, he needs to keep his shop open year round and provide a wide variety. Therefore, he sells imported foods such as clementines from Morocco. Marcel, Damaris and Alexandre attest that farming is not a job; it is a vocation. “You must be passionate,” insists Damaris. “Long hours, physical labor and few holidays is not for everyone. I need to be outdoors. I need variety. I love being with nature.” Damaris happily returns to the tractor when an extra hand is needed, enjoying the change of activity.

I ask Alex to describe a typical day, but he says there is no such thing. “Even though I organize my daily activities, the plans always change.” Just that morning, Alex rose before dawn to cut 200 heads of lettuce and deliver them to Manor by 7am in response to a call he’d received from Manor the day before. When I met up with him at 9am, he was pruning plum trees to ensure that sunlight would reach the inner branches. Slightly bending the upper branches downward, he explained the technique would encourage increased fruit production. Turning his attention to a plot of early lettuce, he took advantage of a break in weeks of steady rain to apply a safe chemical spray, protecting it from too much moisture. In the afternoon, we met up as he was harvesting tender dandelion greens. After returning to the barn to wash the leaves in cold water to maintain freshness, we ventured to

the asparagus plot. Using a tool he had fashioned himself, Alexandre cut the stalks just below the earth. “Cutting above the ground results in spindly stalks,” he explained.

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While lower prices may be found twenty minutes away in France, many Swiss prefer to buy high quality locally grown products. Damaris feels lucky to be located near the Lake Road, which facilitates sales, but it’s clear to me that the key to their success in family farming is adaptability, client-orientation and an entrepreneurial spirit. Back at the shop, Marcel offers an apple to a child and informs a gentleman that his friend was in earlier buying asparagus. The Balmers’ loyal service is matched by their client’s appreciation for their high quality homegrown produce. The author’s blogspot: http://marypecaut.wordpress.com

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Hello Switzerland for Expatriates, Summer Edition 2012  

Hello Switzerland is written by expats for expats living in Switzerland. Designed mainly for English speakers, the magazine contains feature...

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