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“It is what it is” - life at Finailhof farm

“It is what it is” - life at Finailhof farm

No matter whose car it is driving up the steep, winding road, their gaze will be drawn first to the turquoise of the lake at the bottom of the valley and then to the vibrant larch green on the steep slopes.

No matter whose car it is driving up the steep, winding road, their gaze will be drawn first to the turquoise of the lake at the bottom of the valley and then to the vibrant larch green on the steep slopes. It is only when you arrive at the top that you see the imposing farmstead with its stables and its timber work blackened by the sun and marked by the weather. Kid goats bleat as they pass, greeting the visitor, nibbling at their trouser legs, and nudging them gently towards the entrance. The tables and benches in the sun are waiting to offer the guests some respite, their legs tired from hiking. And a view. Opposite Finailhof farm, Monte Nevosa rises towards the heavens.

History today

You can see the history of the farm everywhere, it encircles it, as do the many vegetable patches and fields. Finailhof farm was first mentioned in the 11th century. Legend has it that in 1416 the Finailhof farmers gave protection to Duke Frederick IV (“Freddy with the empty pocket”) who was on the run. As a cover, the duke was tasked with the job of tending the sheep as a farmhand. The story goes that he gifted the farmers a goblet as a thank you and it has been kept on the farm ever since.

Today, four generations of the Gurschler family live and work on the farm. And, even the youngest pitch in. Between the heads of cabbage in the garden, we spot a little girl in wellingtons, her blond hair in plaits. She wipes her sleeve across her nose and waves over to us.

The family team

The door opens. The first to greet us is a shaggy chamois deer with a seriously long beard, standing at the wall. Crossing the creaking floorboards, we see two rooms, one to the right and the other to the left, one of them in light Swiss pine, the other painted “hunter green”, with wood panelling and decorated with trophy animals.

Erna and Veronika both wear red with the obligatory blue apron. And, yes, you might think they are sisters but Erna is Veronika’s mother-in-law. She laughs: “The mountain air helps to keep you looking youthful. And, the work keeps you young too.”

Erna and her husband, Gottfried, live and work on the farm together with their son, Manfred, and his Veronika; the young family had another baby in January of this year. There are now 4 children on Finailhof farm. Great-grandma and Great-grandpa live next door. “Everyone in the family lends a hand, regardless of their age,” says Veronika. Through the window, we see the little girl again, scraping the ground with a rake no bigger than herself. A cat is following her every step.

Farm work as a hobby?

There is certainly no shortage of work on Finailhof farm, what with the catering, and crops and livestock. “Here on the farm, we grow all the vegetables we need and anything else we serve up to our guests. We also tend to over 300 Senales sheep, 150 mountain goats, just under 40 cattle and a number of pot-bellied pigs. So, it’s crucial that everyone has their own area of responsibility. At the same time, everyone has to be prepared to help out the others.” 365 days a year, because there is no day of rest on Finailhof farm. “The nearest guest house to here is not exactly around the corner, so we cannot leave our guests standing outside. Anyone who comes to us will be served a warm meal, no matter what the time of day,” says Erna.

Everything that is on the menu at Finailhof farm comes from the farm: From eggs to milk and meat, to potatoes, lettuce and cabbage. “We actually only buy flour.” And even the flour used to be produced on the farm: For a long time, Finailhof farm was the highest grain farm in Europe.

So many members of the one family who not only live together but work together. How does that work, I ask. “It works if everyone is busy.” Respect is crucial. And, to a certain extent a person’s private sphere and free time.
When asked how free time is spent at Finailhof, Veronika doesn’t have to think for long: “There is very little free time here. The farm work is never-ending. But, if you enjoy your work then that’s not a problem.”

It’s fine the way it is

I think for a moment about what it would be like to swop my office job for a job on the farm. “The day starts at 5 am and goes on for as long as it needs to.” No, I don’t think a 5 am start is for me!

What is Erna’s favourite work, I ask. “I like everything, it’s part of the job: It’s good, the way it is.” We know how it was years ago, you worked on a farm and nobody asked if you liked doing certain jobs or not. What has to be done, just has to be done.

Paradise is a matter of opinion

“When guests are here they say all too often: ‘You live in paradise’”, laughs Erna. “We find paradise to be pretty labour-intensive ourselves, but even after so many years, we still appreciate the fact that it’s beautiful here. When the larch trees in the valley are changing colour, we take time to reflect here on our balcony and look over in awe to the mountains. It is these fleeting moments that are so precious to us – now and again we close our eyes and feel the sun on our faces. Being in the here and now and breathing in the mountain air. That is indeed luxury, isn’t it? Paradise - definitely - because it’s my homeland.”
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