"Take action and be an example for others!"

Organic farmer and natural chef Rebecca Clopath on paths to more sustainable agriculture and the role food can play as a sensory experience.

 

In fields, shops and kitchens, people are seeking solutions for a transformation to sustainable agriculture. Natural chef and organic farmer Rebecca Clopath from Lohn, Graubünden, wants to raise awareness for this change at the sensory level with her homemade farm products and regional delicacies. We took advantage of the current restaurant shutdown to talk to her about her commitment to a more sustainable food production.

 

Interview: Margarete Sotier, Biovision

Rebecca Clopath, how are you doing as a chef currently in lockdown?

At the moment everything is different, new, uncertain. This moves me to find new ways to adjust to the situation. I don’t like to let coincidence direct my work. We are improving things internally: renovating, painting, rebuilding. I am also in the process of opening a restaurant in Chur with my business partner – Corona-compliant, variable and adaptable. It’s certainly not boring for me, or rather for us. And this situation allows us to follow new directions and try things out.

Apropos: How do you encourage people to behave more sustainably?

My credo is: Take action and be an example for others! Because if we want to make changes towards sustainability, we have to put it into practice and live it ourselves. Taking responsibility means not only buying local and organic, but also taking action yourself: grow your own vegetables, milk your own milk or cook for your family and friends – and talk about it!

I myself decided to return to Graubünden, take over my parents’ farm and combine it with gastronomy, which is very close to my heart. Through what I cook and sell in our farm shop and by talking to people about what it is all about and what is behind our food, I can build people’s awareness. I am convinced that education combined with the sensory experience of eating is one of the best ways to motivate people to take action.

What can guests expect in your restaurant?

At our so-called eating experiences – our restaurant’s eight-course menu evenings – we tell our guests where the products for each course come from and why we serve them. We cook exclusively with naturally cultivated alpine food. I want to show people how diverse our nature is. There are so many intense flavours and rare, old varieties that are fantastic for cooking with and eating! I think that the sensory experience of food can create appreciation and encourage people to change their behaviour. But I’m certainly living in a bubble up here at Schamser Berg, as the majority of our clientele is very well informed about topics in sustainability. I think that most Swiss people are not yet that far along – I noticed that a lot during my training as a farmer. But I already see a lot of positive changes in the culinary scene.

What wishes do you have for agricultural policy?

I would very much welcome more support for growing vegetables in Switzerland, as I see great potential in it. One reason for my return to Schamser Berg was that a lot has already been done here in terms of organic production. Over 60 per cent of farms in Graubünden grow organic!

I know many mountain farmers who are increasingly turning to vegetable production, even at higher altitudes. That’s fantastic because here you can experience biodiversity. For example, I know a farmer who planted thirteen different varieties of onions. We harvested them and now we are trying out different dishes with them. As a chef, it is exciting for me to talk to farmers about food diversity and biodiversity. I think that Switzerland is in a particularly good position for this because of its varied topography and different altitudes.