Local artisanal cheese produced in the midst of a national park

David and Marion Guignard produce artisanal goats’ cheese in Vaulion, in the midst of the Jura Vaudois Nature Park. For this couple, it’s more than just a job − it’s a passion to which they dedicate all their time. A profile set against a backdrop of pastures and livestock.

Ludovic Cuany

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Artisanal cheese on wooden planks
Photo: Urs Graber

The Combeaupin farm, standing at an altitude of almost 1,000 metres, overlooks the Orbe Valley and sits at the foot of the Dent de Vaulion, a peak much loved by hikers. It’s here amidst the lush green meadows and forests that David Guignard and his wife Marion have lived for over a decade, producing artisanal cheese using mainly goats’ but also cows’ milk.

Meant to be

While David grew up right next to the farm, he didn’t intend to work in agriculture initially. After successfully completing his cheese-making apprenticeship, a tragic event led him to consider this profession. “My neighbour who owned the farm at the time died suddenly. As he didn’t have anyone to carry it on, I decided to do it myself,” he explains. It was an obvious step for someone who grew up in this environment.

Photo of David Guignard
33-year-old David Guignard breeds cows and goats in the pristine landscape of the Jura Vaudois Nature Park. (Photo: Urs Graber)

So, out of the blue, David took over the farm in 2010 and began dairy farming. Joined shortly afterwards by Marion, who later became his wife, it was somewhat by chance that the 23-year-old decided to move into dairy goat farming, following a conversation with a former classmate in Grangeneuve (Canton of Fribourg). After starting out with two animals, the herd grew rapidly over the years. He now has around 50 goats.

A herd of goats in the Alpine meadows
“Cassoulet”, “Jacquette” and “Daya” fully enjoy their freedom in the Alpine pastures around the farm. (Photo: Urs Graber)

Expertise and respect for the animals

The couple make a wide variety of cheeses with their flock, ranging from fresh and mature Tomme to Bûche. Their artisanal products are available at various outlets in the region, including grocer’s shops, markets and Alpine restaurants. Having been awarded the Swiss Parks product labelTarget not accessible by the Swiss Confederation, all the cheeses are made according to a set of specifications. “This label helps to raise our profile and provides recognition for our business, but we didn’t really have to make that many adjustments to meet the criteria. We don’t practise extensive farming and already work with local partners,” says David. The label certifies the origin and sustainability of the products made in Swiss Parks.

What makes the quality of the Guignards’ goat cheeses stand out? The couple produce their cheeses only from mid-March to October, when the goats graze freely in the region’s meadows and Alpine pastures. The seasonal variations in their food give the cheeses their unique flavour. The rest of the time, the herd leads a normal existence, which includes breeding season at the end of the year.

Close-up of a goat
David Guignard has a 50-strong herd of goats. (Photo: Urs Graber)

This year, the Guignards started work on the construction of a building annexed to the farm which will house a cold room, a production facility, a laboratory and a store. They also intend to set up a farm shop for direct sales. These plans, which will be carried out next year, will improve working processes on the farm and enable the Guignards to expand their range of cheeses in future. A future which became that of a family of three just over a year ago. A son called Léon has transformed the couple’s life. There is no doubt that the youngster will thrive, growing up with his parents amidst the meadows and animals.

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Paying tribute to Switzerland’s regional parks

There are 19 parks of national importance in Switzerland. Swiss Post has dedicated stamps to four of them – two in the Jura Arc and two in the Alps. These stamps don’t just depict pristine nature, but also picturesque villages and living customs. Near to Geneva, Lausanne and France, the Jura Vaudois Nature Park is one of the regions represented in small format. The magnificent Alpine meadows of the park – set among a wild landscape of wooded pastures and drystone walls – symbolize both tourism and the Alpine economy, with its artisanal cheese-making. These stamps are available at our branches and from our online shop.

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written by

Ludovic Cuany