Alp Äbnistetten is located on 3,800 feet, seven miles above the small town of Hasle in the Entlebuch region. It is one of only seven dairy alps in the Lucerne canton. The land the Theiler-Steger cultivate and their animals graze on belongs to a so called “Biosphere” – a geographical area protected by UNICEF for its organic farming, authenticity, pureness, health and role model status. Äbnistetten was part of the first Adopt-an-Alp program.
Together with Reto and Silvia their four young kids Lisa (10), Melinda (8), Nick (6), Katja (4) and Marc (18 months) move up for the summer. Silvia used to make the cheese, but now she leaves this to Thomas Hofstetter, a former apprentice: “I thought it makes more sense to take care of the kids and the cooking instead of having a friend doing this.” They have also an apprentice, Lukas, who works for them the whole year.
The family is joined by their 45 cows, 20 calves, some pigs, a dog, donkeys, ponies chickens, and even ducks. Reto’s parents take care of the farm in the valley and come up when help is needed.
The house and dairy on Alp Äbnistetten had been in use since 1948 before they were taken down completely and reconstructed in 2011. Now the family, crew and animals spend their summers in modern, spacious and light filled surroundings.
Reto is the handy man, tends to the animals and oversees the cheese aging room. Cheese maker Thomas handles about 125 gallons of raw cow milk daily. Besides Butter and Ziger he makes Alpkäse and Bratkäse, the central Swiss version of Raclette.