Operated organically, without pesticides or herbicides) the alpine herb farm is located amid spectacular views. (Can it be possible that all Swiss farms are so picturesque?)
There, farmer Maurice, who’s fluent in English, will walk you through fields of sage, orange mint, peppermint, elderberry, lavender, thyme, verbena, rosemary and more.
He’ll explain their use in several Swiss products, especially Ricola, the famous maker of cough drops, candies and pastilles that are sold globally.
Ricola’s original formula is a blend of 13 medicinal herbs grown in Switzerland. The Massereys are among 100 independent farmers throughout Switzerland who are under contract to Ricola.
Another company that buys Masserey’s herbs is Bio Alp Tea, a mixture of herbs in a sweetened iced-tea base.
Maurice will also show visitors his solar-powered herb dryer, which uses renewable energy to quickly dry the aromatic herbs in a way that preserves as much of their essential oils as possible.
In addition, the farmwork is done mostly by hand, which greatly reduces fuel use and creates a cleaner product.
To reach the Massereys’ herb farm, which is certified-organic by Bio-Suisse (“organic” is called “bio” in Europe), you don’t need a car: Just take the train to Sierre, follow the red line painted on the sidewalk from the train station to the funicular, and ride the funicular to the Darnona stop. A short walk, and you’re there!
After you’ve learned about the herbs, you’re invited to the Masserey farmhouse, where you can sit looking over the Sierre valley with the high, jagged peaks of peaks such as the Weisshorn around you. And you can taste Bio Alp Tea, Ricola products, and even some of Masserey’s family wine—all the while pondering how people all over the world enjoy the herbal products grown on this, and other, Swiss farms.
—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor