Story

The unique, uncompromising Haldihof.

A personal account.

Before Bruno Muff lets us into both his farm and his thoughts on sustainable farming, we relax and enjoy the magnificent view, surrounded by both young and mature tall fruit trees and sipping a sparkling quince gin cocktail sustainably produced at the Haldihof. Later in our visit we will employ all our senses in discovering quite how much care and passion goes into creating the distillates, and will take away lasting memories.

Sustainability. This is the buzzword which Bruno Muff uses as we begin our journey into a world which for him means far more than simply avoiding artificial fertilizer. For him, sustainability is more a way of life, a commitment, a different attitude to consumer behaviour and our planet. He answers our million-dollar question “What exactly does organic mean?” on several different levels, with care, respect and the natural environment always the key considerations. For this passionate organic farmer, following ecological principles is a given. He sees it as his life’s mission to tell guests at his farm about the far-reaching implications of organic farming and to give them a deep insight into sustainable organic production methods.

The general public tends to think of organic farming as producing agricultural products without using chemical additives. “But organic farming is far more than that. It’s more complicated, more challenging, and more complex,” Bruno Muff explains to us. He thinks it’s important to offer his guests an in-depth understanding of the subject, telling us that “educating people is important because the information we pass on can influence consumer behaviour. If people understand the bigger picture then they are prepared to pay a bit more for a high-quality product.”

The bigger picture is multifaceted and there are many different criteria that need to be fulfilled for a farm to be certified as organic. The Haldihof is inspected and tested four or five times a year. Muff tells us, “we don’t use any artificial fertilizer, pesticides or fungicides. And we buy only very limited amounts of feed from outside Switzerland. We also avoid all synthetic ingredients.” So the farm only uses what benefits the animals and the environment. This approach also incorporates rest and recovery: 25% of the total agricultural land is uncultivated. It’s a question of give and take, explains the organic farmer: “in return, the environment gives us biodiversity.” Leaving areas uncultivated provides a habitat for insects, for example, which in turn play a role in pest control. This type of farming is more difficult, but the reward is higher-quality raw materials. And the better the raw material, the higher the quality of the final product.

The products at Haldihof are living proof of this: the diverse and utterly delightful range includes a variety of scented soaps, sophisticated distillates, aromatic vinegars and delicate dried fruits. Today we are particularly interested in the wide range of gins passionately crafted by Bruno Muff, who as a former botanist particularly enjoys concentrating on the various botanicals. Each gin is made from an elaborate recipe which creates the unique flavour. It’s time for our senses of sight, smell and taste to come into play and for our palates and minds to experience a complex intermeshing of aromas, images and stories. The quality of the gin is indisputable.

Yet it’s not just the contents of the bottle that are high in quality – the packaging is carefully designed, too, right down to the label, with impressive details: “Corporate design and the right marketing is just as important as the cultivation and processing of our products,” Bruno Muff tells us. And we are impressed: he is proof of how sustainability and business sense go hand in hand. Best practice, you could say.

Yet his affinity for marketing and successful economic decision-making haven’t come out of nowhere. When you take a look at his life story, you discover that farm owner Bruno Muff is a multifaceted and multitalented person with huge amounts of expert knowledge. Having studied landscape planning, over 20 years ago Muff embarked on digitalizing geographic information, together with his brother. They set up their own company, which soon had 60 employees and became a ground-breaking success when it discovered geomarketing and programmed the Internet’s first geographic search system. We use such software on a daily basis today, but back then Google came knocking at Muff’s door, highly interested in what he could do. This knowledge ultimately fed into the further development of Google Maps and Google Earth, but Bruno Muff and his brother decided to go in a different direction and sold their company to Google. For Bruno Muff and his wife, it was “the best decision we’ve ever made”.

Since then, the Muffs have continued their success story at the Haldihof. The farm is a place where entrepreneurial spirit and a zero-compromise attitude to organic production come together in harmony and create amazing things. Today we round off our day of insights with freshly baked cake and another cocktail at the Hof Café. As happy as the alpacas around us, we sit back and enjoy the final rays of late summer sun in Weggis. Impressed and refreshed, we leave the farm with shopping bags full of gin, soap and vinegar, along with a new understanding of sustainable and successful organic farming.

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