The government introduced another new subsidy – a landscaping incentive. It pays for farmers to plant a rose bush at the end of their row of grapevines; to keep a clean yard, with flowers blooming on the windowsills; to keep the traditional fruit orchard out back. It pays to increase field rotation to seven crops – more crops give more colour and variety to the landscape. Farmers are being reimbursed for their part in making Switzerland the beautiful country it is. Looking at it that way, it’s only fair. That’s what tourists come to see, after all – old farmhouses with windows covered in swaths of red geraniums, happy cows on flowering alpine meadows.
“We can import all the food we need,” Paul told me cynically. “But we can’t import the flower meadows.” Fourteen per cent of the Kanton of Schaffhausen’s agriculture land is now ecologically sensitive area. Many farmers struggle with this new twist on their identity. They prefer to be producers, not landscape gardeners. But if flower meadows pay the bills better than wheat, so be it. Tourists will still see wheat fields, but often they’ll be interspersed with red poppies. It makes for scenic hiking and biking.
It all feels pretty trivial after coming back from Zambia, where we and many others, including the Zambian government, are trying to help farmers produce better and more, so they have enough to eat. Here in Switzerland we’re more worried about providing food for our environment than for our people. I guess that’s what it’s like to be at the top of the Maslow Pyramid!