Innovative agriculture – Lucerne farming couple looks for a source of income – and finds the fig – News


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Figs come from the south, but also grow in Switzerland. Here they are only grown in a single place.

Autumn is harvest time, and that’s no different on Andrea and Stephan Stocker’s farm in Greppen, Lucerne. “It’s an intensive phase,” says the farmer, “we’re constantly busy reading at the moment.”

But the around 160 trees that stand here in a field between Rigi and Lake Lucerne don’t have apples or pears hanging on them – but figs. The only figs in Switzerland that are grown on a large scale.

Legend:

In the back is the Rigi, in the view is the Pilatus: The 160 fig trees in Greppen are the only facility in Switzerland where figs are grown on a large scale.

SRF/Sämi Studer

The fig trees are planted on half a hectare of land and produce around 1.2 tons of fruit per year. That’s not very much, compared to the 4,000 tons of figs that Switzerland imports every year.

We couldn’t live from livestock farming alone.

But for the Stocker couple it is an important source of income. “Our business is not particularly large and we couldn’t make a living from livestock farming alone,” says Stephan Stocker.

Conscious decision for a niche product

When Stockers took over the farm in 2012, they considered how they could best use the available land. They chose figs because they were convinced that the fruit would be easy to market through their own farm shop.

And because figs are not a fruit that can be grown everywhere – but they can be grown in Greppen: the protected location on the south side of the Rigi ensures a mild climate here.

The two Swiss fig pioneers gained a lot of knowledge about growing the fruit from farms in southern France. Nevertheless, the path to the first harvest was paved with uncertainties.

The first twelve trees to be planted froze in the winter. Stockers were about to give up – when the trees sprouted again in spring and were winter-proof from then on.

Stephan Stocker with a sliced ​​fresh fig.

Legend:

The beginning was difficult, but now the figs are thriving in Greppen. Stephan Stocker with a sliced ​​fresh fruit.

SRF/Sämi Studer

When production started and demand increased, it became apparent that birds also liked figs: flocks of starlings attacked the fruit and destroyed part of the harvest.

The couple decided to completely wrap their system with a net for protection. A costly affair, says Andrea Stocker: “We asked ourselves whether it was worth continuing. But we had already put so much work and money into the fig trees that we didn’t want to give up.”

Fresh figs have to be sold quickly

But not only is growing figs difficult, but also marketing them. “We only want to sell very fresh figs, that’s our trademark,” says Andrea Stocker. “But the ripe fruit only lasts for a maximum of two days – which means it has to reach customers quickly.”

Andrea Stocker in her fig plantation.

Legend:

Andrea Stocker in her fig plantation: Once harvested, the fresh fruits have to be delivered to customers quickly – they only last for two days.

SRF/Sämi Studer

And this mainly happens through the farm shop. Grepper figs are now so well known in the area that customers inquire in advance when fresh figs will be available again.

Stockers also make a number of other products from the figs, from mustard and jam to schnapps and balm.

Sales sign for the Stocker couple's farm shop.

Legend:

“Favorite fruit: figs!”: The Stocker couple’s farm shop not only offers the fruits, but also processed products such as mustard or jam.

SRF/Sämi Studer

However, Stockers don’t want to rely exclusively on figs. When the harvest failed completely in 2021 due to the wet weather, he was happy to have other sources of income with livestock farming and free-range laying hens, says Stephan Stocker.

But: The experiment with the figs was worth it. The fruit is popular and demand is constantly increasing. It’s actually astonishing that no other farmers have jumped on the bandwagon, says Andrea Stocker. «We can definitely recommend it. It doesn’t have to be in our neighborhood.”

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