Hans Oppliger lives in Frümsen, in Switzerland. He voluntarily presides the association “Nussdorf Frümsen” (English: “nut village Frümsen”). Frümsen is located in the Alpine Rhine Valley and has a walnut culture that goes back centuries. The association cultivates this culture and also plants new nut trees. In this way, it contributes a large part to the preservation of the national walnut tree varieties, because there are currently 78 different varieties in Frümsen (or, as Oppliger prefers to put it: “origins”).
On 2 October 2020, the AlpBioEco project partner BUND Ravensburg-Oberschwaben (Friends of the Earth Germany, Regional Association Bodensee-Oberschwaben) organised an excursion to this region of Switzerland. Hans Oppliger led the participants along the Frümsner Walnut Trail. There was not only a lot of interesting information about the walnut, but also some anecdotes and personal stories.
AlpBioEco: Thank you for taking the time for an interview with AlpBioEco. Would you like to briefly introduce yourself and the Nussdorf Frümsen association in a few sentences?
I am Hans Oppliger, I work part-time at the Agricultural Center SG and I also have a private consultancy for the conservation of the diversity of historical cultivated plants. I am also involved in the local Nussdorf Frümsen association, which is a private association of the village.
AlpBioEco: What is the exact task of the Nussdorf Frümsen association?
The association brings the villagers together and thus also promotes the identity in the village – because the centuries-old walnut culture in the village makes Frümsen something special. With the association we want to develop various new walnut products, revive the walnut culture and, above all, plant new nut trees again. By preserving the cultural landscape, people should learn again to appreciate their surroundings and use them carefully. In addition, the walnut naturally also has an advertising effect for the village. For example, it offers good opportunities for sustainable tourism, for example for guests who travel by public transport (train and bus) or in the beautiful landscape on bicycles.
With the association, we have created a structure that motivates people to participate. Above all, the club structure enables us to organise the finances more regularly. I came to Frümsen 30 years ago as an outsider and have always found the nut culture to be something special. And people are very interested in the walnut culture: 80 people came to the first meeting and the first day of planting, even though the village is so small.
AlpBioEco: Why is it so important to preserve the different walnut varieties?
In 1992, the world community in Rio committed itself to preserve and promote biodiversity. Switzerland has also signed this treaty. Biodiversity is very diverse and affects entire ecosystems, but also plant communities and their own species. But it is also about safeguarding the diversity of genes within the species. A part of this is the diversity of cultivated plants that have emerged over the centuries. Cultivated plants were created in the interaction of genes with their environment, but also through the influence of humans – humans have promoted the development of desired properties, but also eradicated undesirable ones.
Preserving the diversity of walnuts is a national mandate. The Swiss primary collection is in Frümsen and currently contains 78 German-Swiss walnut varieties. We have been planting and maintaining new varieties here every year since 2010. The varieties are then included in Switzerland's national database. Actually, I do not like to say varieties, but rather “origins”. Because walnut trees are difficult to graft, they were almost always only propagated from seedlings. In the case of walnuts, in contrast to other types of fruit, a seedling differs much less from the original tree.
AlpBioEco: What is the Walnut Trail and how did it come about?
We have invested a lot in the various aspects of the walnut. For example, the foresters also promote the nut trees in the forest. This is also important for the adaptability of the forest in times of climate change. So, we promote the walnut in different ways. On the walnut trail, we would like to explain the many aspects of the walnut to people and, among other things, show the health values. On the walnut trail, visitors can hike and learn something on the side. It is also important to us that people get out into nature and learn to appreciate it.
AlpBioEco: Can you explain the principle of the Frümsner commons (“Tratt”)?
Switzerland has a very traditional culture. There are two structures in a community: the political community and also the local community of the citizens, the long-established families. This system of local parishes still exists today, especially in the Rhine Valley. The families have remained very loyal to the places for centuries and have a large part of the land as collective property. Many farmers in the Rhine Valley lease their fields from the local communities. In Frümsen, there are traditionally around four families who collectively own the land above the village. In the course of time, however, many newcomers were naturalized and are now also “local citizens”. In the pastures above the village, where many old nut trees grow, all villagers can collect nuts themselves, because the “Tratt” is open to all villagers. Anyone can take the nuts if certain rules are observed. Unfortunately, every now and then people from outside come as well, which is of course not entirely in the spirit of the inventor.
AlpBioEco: What do you love about walnuts?
Walnuts are delicious! In addition, they are of course very healthy. And I find the trees interesting because they grow quickly and require almost no maintenance – a walnut tree grows for 100 years without humans having to contribute much and sheds up to 100 kg of nuts every year. And the old trees are also very imposing and impressive.
AlpBioEco: Thank you very much for the interview!
Nussdorf Frümsen Association / Hans Oppliger
Spengelgass 12, 9467 Frümsen
On 2 October 2020, the AlpBioEco project partner BUND Ravensburg-Oberschwaben (Friends of the Earth Germany, Regional Association Bodensee-Oberschwaben) organised the AlpBioEco walnut excursion to Frümsen. To read more about this event, please read our news: AlpBioEco walnut excursion, Malans & Frümsen, Switzerland.
Photos: © AlpBioEco