Self-service flower gardens represent an aspect of living in Switzerland that still enchants me after twelve years.
Ever since I moved here, I’ve been a fan of the Swiss honor system for buying fresh produce and other farm products directly from the people who tend gardens and farm animals.
I love that I can cut flowers, like these gladiolas, from a field with a knife or scissors left there just for the purpose. And pick up goodies at the doorstep of a farm, adding my francs to those already in the little can or jar. Or when on a hike, snap up fresh cheeses from a tray left out beside a barn, and count out the coins for payment.
It may not be on a farm, but this shop in Reigoldswil has an open-air display, set out on a covered deck fronting the busy tourist route that leads to the gondola at the end of the village. On any given Sunday, literally hundreds of people pass by. When I was there, the display featured a sideboard and a table set with real plates and cutlery. Where else would you see such a thing intact, missing not a knife or a platter, never mind a chair?
Signs along the same street advertized lamb chops and sausages, inviting me past cars parked in the driveway of a home, then around and behind the house to a covered patio. There I found a freezer filled with vacuum-packed meats, a price list and instructions for depositing payment.A weekend hike brought me to Mariastein, a popular pilgrimage destination above the little town of Flϋh. On offer were firewood, straw, jars of marmalade and honey, even wine from the vineyards of the Benedictine monastery. This stand had a bell to ring for help.
As I loaded sweet, dark cherries into my backpack, my companions pulled a blue-topped plastic jug from a rack on top of the refrigerator, inserted coins into a slot on the dispenser, which poured a liter of milk, cold and very creamy. Before we headed for home, we enjoyed cups of freshly made, unfiltered apple cider. Beside the jug in its wooden holder, there was even a tube for discarding used cups.
Switzerland may be exemplary in this practice, but there are honor system farms in rural America, too, reported online by care2 news.