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August 1

Fewer farmers stomach National Day brunches

For many Swiss, August 1 – Swiss National Day – means tucking into a hearty brunch on a farm. Up to 150,000 brunchers are expected this year. However, fewer and fewer farmers are finding the tradition is worth the effort. 

On Friday, 364 farms will open their gates and invite people to fill up on local cheese, meats and bread (for a fee of around CHF25-30 ($28-33)). This is down from 535 two decades ago, according to Brigitte Süess from the Swiss Farmers’ Union, confirming a report in the Blick newspaper. 

The 1994 brunch was the second time the event had been held, and since it was the first time the national holiday was also an official holiday – meaning people didn’t have to go to work – around 120,000 people jumped at the chance of a meal in the countryside. 

So although the number of participating farms has dropped by a third, the number of guests has actually increased – largely down to farms catering for more guests than have officially registered. 

Not worth it 

But despite the demand, many farmers have stopped offering a National Day brunch and the farmers’ association is struggling to convince others to have a go. 

“Many farmers were involved right from the start and are now stopping or having a break,” said Süess, adding that the effort required was enormous but the profits relatively small: a couple of thousand francs for two weeks’ hard work. 

Farms that put on brunches or other events throughout the year were more likely to carry on, she explained. 

“But those who once a year have to clean out their barn and install extra loos, fridges and washing machines are more likely to give up.” 

Nevertheless, Süess is confident that the tradition will continue. “More and more people live in cities or built-up areas. The brunches are a nice way for farmers to show what they do.”