Alp Äbnistetten is located at 3,800 feet altitude, seven miles above the small town of Hasle in the Entlebuch region. It is one of only seven dairy alps in the Lucerne canton. The land the Theiler-Steger family cultivates and their animals graze on belongs to a so-called “Biosphere” – a geographical area protected by UNICEF for its organic farming, authenticity, pureness, health, and role model status. Äbnistetten was part of the first Adopt-an-Alp program in 2013.
Together with Reto and Silvia, their four young kids Lisa (12), Melinda (10), Nick (8), Katja (6), and Marc (4) move up for the summer. Nothing has changed with the personnel: Nadia Kleiner is the cheesemaker, she also helps Silvia in the household.
The family is joined by their 45 cows, 20 calves, some pigs, a dog, donkeys, ponies, chickens, and even ducks. Reto’s parents take care of the farm in the valley and come up when help is needed.
The house and dairy on Alp Äbnistetten had been in use since 1948 before they were taken down completely and reconstructed in 2011. Now the family, crew, and animals spend their summers in modern, spacious, and light-filled surroundings.
Reto is the handyman, tends to the animals, and oversees the cheese aging room. Cheesemaker Nadia will handle about 125 gallons of raw cow milk daily. Besides Butter and Ziger she makes Alpkäse and Bratkäse, the central Swiss version of Raclette.