It’s off the farm for most Swiss farm women

February 8, 2010: Up and down, up and down – my broken arm goes through the physio exercises. With only ten days to departure to Africa, I am motivated to get as much healing and movement back as quickly as possible. It’s coming nicely. Just don’t slip on an icy patch now!

A refugee woman from Eritrea sits beside me in church. Wistfully she remarks that the sun in Africa will heal my bone. Sunshine continues to be a rare commodity here – once every 7-10 days at best.

Winter hike of the Schleitheim farm women organisation. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Winter hike of the Schleitheim farm women organisation. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Last Thursday was one of those rare sunny days. It was a perfect day for the annual winter hike of the Schleitheim Landfrauenverein – Farmwoman organization. Eight women and six children hiked over the snow covered hill to the Hohbrugg Restaurant. That’s one of the great things of living in Switzerland – there’s a restaurant at the end of every hiking trail.

I took the opportunity to find out what has changed for the Swiss farm women since we left in 1991. Lots, I was told. At that time few farm women worked away from the farm. Their help was needed at home. Sugar beets were thinned by hand; women helped rake the hay down the steeper hills, fed calves and of course did the housework and childcare.

Any farm woman with an ounce of pride had a vegetable garden, preserved the fruit from the many trees, and wouldn’t think of buying a loaf of bread or bringing anything less than a home baked cake to a community function.

And now? I was told it’s a luxury for a young woman to be kept by her farmer man. Mostly there’s no need either. Sugar beets are seeded at harvest distance; sheep graze the steep slopes and the calves drink out of automated feeders.

A lawn with a swing set covers the vegetable garden and the Co-op bakery makes a fine cake. Only the older generation would comment on the weeds along the hedge. The young women have other priorities – jobs, time for their children and their activities.

The first flowers brave the snow the first week of February. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

The first flowers brave the snow the first week of February. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

One thing hasn’t changed much. Most farm houses are still home to two generations. That surprises me a little – I know too well the tensions that such close living arrangements can cause. Sure, there are always two separate apartments with their own entrances now. My mother-in-law still cooked and lived with her in-laws.

It has its good sides. Grandma is right there to babysit – a service many take advantage of. Two of the hiking women were Grandmas with their grandchildren, and they seemed to be enjoying every minute.

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One Response to It’s off the farm for most Swiss farm women

  1. maya Wenger says:

    Would this women’s organization in Switzerland be a part of a larger umbrella organization? For example, the Women’s Institutes in Canada have a national office, and are part of the ACWW – Asociated Country women of the World, head office in England. What is the purpose of the Swiss women’s groups?

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