In the early 90ies, more farmers and families decided not to do transhumance anymore. Spending summers on the Alp and making cheese, often in huts that needed badly some refurbishment, was too hard. Whereas staying down in the valley and selling the milk to large producers was not only more convenient, it also guaranteed a steady income. Especially in the Alpstein-Säntis region just between the Cantons of St. Gall and both Appenzells (AI and AR) where the Alps and Alpkäse played a central role in the economy the trend was alarming. Finally, a group of influential people took matters in their hands and started to put an end to the trend.
In 1996 they founded the Alpschaukäserei Schwägalp, a corporation that partly belongs to them and partly to the participating farmers. Located on the foot of the impressive Säntis massive, at about 4000 feet altitude, the showcase dairy receives the milk from by now 55 small herds. Meaning that the farmers decided to continue doing Transhumance but concentrate on farming while a team of professional cheesemakers takes care of crafting the precious summer milk into fine Alp cheeses. There are also herds of goats on the meadows.
After only 16 years, in 2012, the building underwent an extension and the dairy became more efficient. The heating of the milk still happens through fire and hot water. And, having proved to be very popular, the dairy remained one in which visitors can witness the production process. During the summer months, they transform about 250’000 gallons of milk into Alpkäse, Mutschli, Raclette, and some specialties that only are sold locally.
For the 2021 season Walter Näf counts on the following team: Albin Grätzer (Manager, new), Udo Freude (Germany, cheesemaker), Rona Diem (cheesemaker), Michal Hycl (Czech Republic, aging cellar), helpers Karel Mladek, Alfred Meier. The store is tended by Marianne Anderegg, Yvonne Huber, Corinne Hörler, and Mirjam Küenzli.