Margrit and Ueli, independent from and not knowing each other at the time, grew up spending summers on the Alp with their families. Both did an apprenticeship after their mandatory school years but as soon as they were done with it they returned to their roots and took jobs that allowed them to work on an Alp again throughout the summers. One sweet fall day the two met on the podium during an Alpkäse award ceremony – it was love at first sight. And ever since they have been going on the Alp together.
Meanwhile, the Abderhaldens have three kids, Simon (12), Melinda (10), and Jan (8), and since 2010 are the happy tenants of beautiful Alp Malbun.
In the last two years however they have partly given their duties on the Alp to Ueli’s parents, Ernst and Anni Abderhalden. This way Ueli and Margrit can take more care of their farm in Gibswil and expand the production of their mountain cheese. And now they work on the big project to expand the dairy in Gibswil. They are also very busy with their “Alpomat”, a vending machine for selling products from different Alps.
The Alp is located in the most northeastern St.Gallen canton and literally just a valley apart from the tiny country of Liechtenstein. They divide their time between the lower hut on roughly 4’300 and the upper house, surrounded by many small lakes, at 5’300 feet altitude. The animals can roam and graze up to heights of over 6’000 feet.
Speaking of animals: The Abderhalden family moves up with a total of 90 dairy cows, of which 25 are their own. Besides them, they bring pigs, water buffalos, chickens, and horses with them. They produce Alpkäse and, for use in their restaurant and their own consumption, young Mutschli and the usual dairy products like butter, yogurt, and fresh cheeses. John Nava of Sigona's in Palo Alto will also tell you: "The chocolate milk they serve you on Malbun is the best on the planet, hands down!" Of course, it's made with raw milk.
Sustainability is a big thing in the everyday life of this family. It is the reason the Abderhaldens stopped selling their pigs to a supermarket chain after they witnessed how the animals got treated from the moment they were picked up at the farm. Now they only raise enough pigs to sustain their family and friends. The animals are slaughtered and then taken apart in the various cuts directly on the farm, stress-free and humanely. Also, the other animals are treated with the biggest respect, just as any other member of the family.
Moving the cows out of the barn