This Malaysian has a very different view of farms prior to coming to this country called Switzerland. The only sort of “farms” I was exposed to were more like paddy fields and orchards or dusuns. Most of the chicken and pig we do get in the country are bred commercially; and because they stink, you can’t really find them unless you go out of your way to look for them. Even when you do find them, they don’t exactly smell great. Most of the time, these breeding places stink to high heaven and the air is just stagnant.
In Switzerland, the countryside is dotted with plenty of farms with equally a lot of acreage. You can run into dairy cows, cattle, chicken, and horses just about 20 minutes (by train) outside Neuchatel. There is also a riding school nearby (where I used to live) but still, nothing beats seeing these farm animals out in the fields grazing away. Wait till you see a dairy cow stare you right in the face!!!! Those eyes and lashes are just mesmerizing…not to mention the fact that they can grow to about six feet in height from head to hoof!
A lot of these farms consist of a barn that houses things like horse supplies (or others), equipment, animals and naturally the house where farmers live in. In some instances, it can be just one big building; most of the time, it’s a plot of land with two large buildings next to each other. I am not too sure what the statistics show but many of the farms I saw during my hikes feature gardens where farmers grow some vegetable and seasonal fruits like strawberries.
Unlike Malaysian commercial breeders, these farmers allow their herds to graze in open fields; even the chickens have their own little space to run around in. The open grassland and wind helps minimize the smell of ammonia – cow dung is a fantastic organic fertilizer in case you were wondering. You’ll find that some farmers may even recycle dung for their vegetable and fruit crops.
I remember encountering the stench of a now-defunct pig farm in Puchong where my mum’s relatives were staying but surprisingly, walking through Swiss farms was a “breath of fresh air” (pun intended). Sure, you will find dung sometimes on the dirt path but the air smells of grass and not pee or anything else, which makes the hiking experience all the most enjoyable!
So honestly, if you’re ever in Switzerland and you have time for a hike, go for one and discover a little bit more about farming the Swiss way…at least from an outsider’s perspective.
In case you’re wondering why I would run into a cow during my hikes, be aware that hiking trails in Switzerland allow you to cut right through the middle of pastures and farms…but more on that another day.