We are absolutely delighted to have added Alp Trosen to the Adopt-an-Alp program. The pristine meadows below the massive Säntis peak are forever linked with our family. In 2010 our son Ty (11 at the time) spent a few weeks of transhumance on Alp Trosen and Alp Flies with Master cheesemaker Jakob “Köbi” Knaus sr.
Since then Köbi has sold the operation to one of his sons, Köbi jr. Together with his wife Rösli they are now their son’s employees. Throughout the year Köbi sr. helps on the farm while Rösli takes care of the aging cellar. And when summer comes, Köbi sr. moves from Unterwasser in the Toggenburg valley up to Alp Flies and then Alp Trosen with 35 cows including 15 of their own. He is joined by a herd of goats and pigs. Besides the Alpkäse he produces “Mutschli”, Ziger (sap sago), butter, yogurt, and the famous “Bloderkäse”. This is an ancient type of cheese made of sour milk.
Köbi jr. tends to the farm in Unterwasser. He and his wife Lucia have 4 children: Elena (5), Salomea (3), Köbi jr. jr. (1.5), and Samuel (born in April 2021).
That “age-old” tradition of cheese making served to sustain the individual farmsteads long before the advent of Swiss cheese. Yet this oldest of Swiss cheeses would be long forgotten by now, had it not been for dairymen like Jakob Knaus, strong Alpine men with broad shoulders and hands like shovels, proud proponents of the ancient Swiss cheese tradition.” (Excerpt from the book “Swiss Cheese” by Dominik Flammer& Fabian Scheffold).
Ancient is indeed the word when it comes to the Knaus operation. Although there have been some renovations on the chalet on the lower Alp Trosen (4500 ft.), the one on Alp Flies (up to 6000 ft.) is nothing more than a hut. Amenities are a foreign word up there as our son easily can confirm. On Trosen tradition has resisted the change of time. The cheeses are made over an open fire in the only room of the hut where the cheesemaker also eats and sleeps. Ty had his sleeping bag on a “stage” just above the barn.
Nevertheless, the whole operation is certified organic. And on the modern side, the Knaus family works with the University of Zurich on different projects. There are windmills to create electricity that is used to run a small fridge and a lamp in the barn because cows don’t like the dark. And there’s also a bag filled with water on the roof that allows for a warm shower in the evening.
The location is typical for the Alps in the Canton St. Gall in eastern Switzerland. Centuries ago the chalets were built in a certain line, like they were “glued” to the slopes. This is to protect from the fall winds as well as from the powerful avalanches in the winter. It is handled similarly in the Alps in the Canton Ticino in the Italian-speaking south.
Watch the videos about Ty's experience in 2010 on Trosen and his interview: