The dairy industry is as much part of the Allgäu as the sound of cow bells. Cheese has been produced with passion in Bavaria’s oldest dairy in Gunzesried since 1892
Alpine dairyman Peter Haslach
In Gunzesried, at Bavaria’s oldest dairy, cheese has been produced with passion since 1892. The special feature of this particular dairy is that it is a cooperative, which has been owned by the local farmers since being set up on 4th January 1892.
With its long and successful history, it has contributed to the identity of the region. “The dairy keeps the landscape alive and thus shapes the village community,” explains Peter Haslach, Managing Director of the Sennerei Gunzesried.
Revolutionary change: Allgäu is becoming the land of cheese
The small operation is an important part of the “green agriculture” of the Allgäu – as the milk and cheese industry is called. It wasn’t always this way: Until around 200 years ago, most farmers grew flax to supplement their income, because the terrain, very steep in places, did not yield as much as they needed. For many years, the blue flowers of this crop were a dominant feature of the Allgäu landscape.
Then in the 19th century, things began to change: The flax growers could no longer compete with cheap, American cotton – so a forward-thinking large-scale farmer and agrarian reformer revolutionised the local Allgäu economy: Carl Himbein told landowners they should produce milk and turn it into cheese.
With his persuasive arguments and dynamic energy, he established a new area of business. Small dairies sprang up around the region. The landscape changed from blue to green and the Allgäu became a “land of cheese” – and has earned worldwide renown as a result. Allgäu cheese can now be found on almost every cold platter, from beer gardens to taverns.
A whole village makes cheese
Bavaria’s oldest dairy is the one in Gunzesried. Even today its cheese production keeps the local agriculture alive and ensures the future of the farmers in the area. It characterises the life of the community: In Gunzesried, a whole village makes cheese – from the dairy staff to the sales staff in the shop and the twelve farmers who supply the milk, that precious raw material from which the cheese is produced. They all work hand in hand and are a tightly knit group.
A piece of Allgäu identity in every wheel of cheese
Peter Haslach is one of these farmers, and also managing director of the dairy. He is proud of the small business, which successfully combines innovative ideas, modern technology and ancient tradition.
In every wheel of cheese that comes from the Sennerei Gunzesried dairy there is both traditional craftsmanship and a genuine slice of Allgäu identity. They only ever use milk from the Gunzesried Valley. Then and now.
"We are a traditional dairy operation with some unconventional ideas“
Traditional values in a modern business
There are some things that simply won’t change. That’s what tradition is all about. This doesn’t stop Peter Haslach from trying new things from time to time. “We are a traditional dairy operation with some unconventional ideas,” says the local traditionalist.
For example, when the business was at a loss to know what to do with the whey – a by-product of cheese production – he thought outside the box. Today they use it to produce methane to heat the whole operation in a sustainable manner.
Perhaps it is this very mixture that makes the cheese of the Sennerei Gunzesried so irresistible, and makes a culinary contribution to the mythology of Bavaria through Allgäu cheese: The passion for traditionally produced cheese, the solidarity of an entire village and the courage to forge new paths.
More about Bavaria's oldest alpine dairy: gunzesrieder-bergkaese.de
... from Peter
Alpine diversity theme trail
The circular trail in the heart of the Nagelfluhkette Nature Park is highly recommended. It starts in the beautiful valley of Gunzesried and leads past the alpine dairy pasture via a small high trail back to the village to our alpine dairy. Here you can walk and experience the region as well as its history. The three-hour trail is also wonderfully suitable for families.
alpsee-gruenten.de (only in German)