At the letter A in the Tièche Valley, meet Pierre Caloz, who is passionate about traditions and heritage. He explains life on the mountain pastures, and the produce found there.
Born in Miège in 1942, Pierre Caloz is someone that is very much linked to heritage and traditions. He left his childhood village quite young, when at twenty years old he embraced a professional career in agribusiness outside of the canton. In 1980 he returned to Valais, where he worked until the end of his professional career in 1989. His early retirement enabled him to finally make a childhood dream come true by committing to various associations dedicated to local heritage and cultural traditions, and above all, by taking over presidency of the Alpage du Sex pastures in 2002.
The consortium of mountain pastures at Sex is a corporation under cantonal private law. Up until the 1960s, the consortium was managed by those parties involved in the pasture. A procurator general and assistant procurator were appointed at an annual general meeting. Their role was to manage routine business in the summer season: the hiring of staff, food provisions, selection of a pedigree bull and a good mule. Every ‘allodiateur’ (member) had to act as procurator in turn (with the exception of widows, who paid a CHF 50.- indemnity). The pasture employed 6 people : the master cheesemaker, who was also in charge, the shepherd, who looked after the general cleaning, the ‘egnerand’, who was in charge of transport. The ‘Villir’ was 1st shepherd, the ‘Dolin’ 2nd shepherd and the ‘mayo’, milk labeller and ‘aide de camp’, or general caretaker. The pasture itself was divided into 496 feet (rights to graze stock on the pasture), providing summer grazing for 124 head of livestock. Four feet gave grazing rights for one cow for the summer. Life on the mountain pasture was very tough. Getting up at 4am in the morning, workers started by milking about 25 cows each (by hand), the ‘mayo’ carefully recorded the quantity of milk for each ‘allodiateur’. For the rest of the day, everyone went about their individual jobs. At 4pm the cows were brought back to the yard for evening milking, which lasted two or three hours. Finally at around 9pm, after a long day of work, employees could at last have a well-deserved meal. A little anecdote : in 1953, I myself spent a season working as a ‘mayo’ on the pasture when my father was procurator. I have many fond memories.
From 1965 onwards, it was no longer possible to manage the pasture as a consortium due to a lack of cattle. It was therefore leased to a farmer who was responsible for supplying the required cattle to guarantee proper maintenance of the pastures. Initially, cattle came uniquely from outside of the canton (Vaud, Fribourg, Bern, and even central Switzerland). Currently the pasture is leased to a farmer in the region who provides cattle both from Valais and from outside of the canton. An agro-pastoral plan encompasses the Sex, Bévron and Plan mountain pastures, and a large part of the Aminona, Arbiche and Aprily private pastures. The total area of these pastures is around 400 hectares. The current stock includes 3 herds of 70 dairy cows, 50 suckler-cows and 120 head of small livestock (calves, heifers, steers). A herd of 100 goats and two flocks of 50 sheep are also pastured in the above-mentioned area. Milk production is around 100,000 litres/season, and allows raclette cheese to be made with the AOP label, as well as a very high quality ‘tomme’ cheese made of serac. All this produce can be found for sale at the alp cheese dairy, the remainder is sold entirely to local businesses.
In 2007, the pasture opened up to agritourism, handing over management of the café to a professional restaurant manager. Traditional dishes made with local produce from the area and the pasture are served in exceptional surroundings with panoramic views over the Valais Alps and its 4,000m+ mountains.
A website https://sites.google.com/site/cavedusex/home provides lots of useful information about produce from the pasture, and the dishes served in the café.
A little corner of natural paradise, the Tièche Valley is an ideal place to recharge your batteries and admire the waterfalls.
Sylvie Doriot Galofaro, Samuel Bonvin and Martial Kamerzin will tell you more about the 125 years project and the history of the resort.