Talking beef with Anne Challandes at the Women's Session 2021

Motivation, encouragement, strength, group spirit and support, recognition - that's what the President of the Swiss Farmers’ Wives and Rural Women’s Association (SBLV) takes away from the Women's Session 2021.
(Photo: provided)
(Photo: provided)

Franziska Schawalder (FS): First of all, congratulations on your quick-witted answer to Patti Basler’s question whether it is already considered feeding farm animals when a woman cooks for her husband, the farmer. 

(For all those who missed the “Deville” programme of Sunday evening, 21 November 2021. Anne Challandes answered as follows: “No, unless the husband is an ass”.)

Anne Challandes (AC) : Thank you. I am a little bit familiar with Patti Basler’s world and this answer came out spontaneously, in the same spirit as her questions.

Before this sentence, and this does not appear in the programme, I answered her other questions seriously.

FS: But now to the actual topic of our interview – the women's session 2021. How did you find the two days at the end of October 2021? Did they meet your political and personal expectations? 

AC: I was the co-organiser and secretary of the Committee on Agriculture. Participating in a session in the National Council Chamber and the Federal Palace is a unique and exciting experience and leaves an unforgettable memory. Two long and intense days of plenary work, preceded by two committee sessions, gave me an opportunity to discover the work of parliamentarians through debates, discussions and exchanges in the hall and in the lobby.

Numerous topics were addressed, in the interest of women in general and of women farmers in particular. The 246 participants were able to make their voices heard and become familiar with political processes and public speaking, which was one of the goals. I think that women’s issues advanced and received visibility.

FS: Which topics were particularly important for you? Are you satisfied with the three petitions and the one interpellation concerning agriculture, or do you think there could have been more topics?

AC: Both aspects of the negative effects of divorce and of social security coverage are important. The Federal Council’s 2016 report on women in agriculture contains multiple avenues and is worth recalling for further reflection. The question of the representation and position of women in agriculture is also a theme worthy of interest. The texts tabled are therefore a step in the right direction. The time available in this session was well used.

FS: What did you take away from these two days?

AC: Motivation, encouragement, strength, group spirit and support, recognition for those who have gone before us and pride in being able to participate in this event.

FS: The Committee on Agriculture numbered 15 women, including yourself. What did your and the SBLV’s preliminary work look like? 

AC: In the Committee, I was the secretary, not a full member. My role was to create favourable conditions for reflection. In particular, this included managing the organisation and running of the two days of meetings and organising the hearing of the experts. I also worked with the Chair and Vice-Chair, and drafted the documents for the preparation of the sessions and the work in the sessions themselves. The aim was to ensure that each member, including those from outside agriculture, received the necessary elements to analyse the situation of women on farms, to reflect on the needs and to find concrete and applicable solutions, which could be supported by a majority in the plenary. The feedback on the work of the USPF in general and on this session was positive. 

FS: What was the atmosphere like among the women? Did you also feel understood and supported by the participants without an agricultural background? 

AC: The Committee members took the problem seriously and tried to find solutions. Those from outside agriculture listened and tried to understand the specificities. They all debated and worked together, in the Committee and in sub-groups, in a constructive and respectful spirit to find common improvements.

FS: What will happen now with the 23 petitions to parliament? Be honest: what do you think, will “our” concerns be heard? And how do the organisers of the women’s session stay in touch?

AC: What happens to these 23 petitions will depend on whether they are taken up by parliamentarians. The texts have been drafted. They can be taken up as they are or possibly adapted. The issues related to the situation of women in agriculture have been aired at the political level for several months now. The USPF will maintain the existing links and take action where necessary.

The presidents of the organising associations were already in regular contact before the session and these contacts are continuing; some themes are common or similar.

FS: We women - and certainly the men - of Suckler Cow Switzerland thank you for your valuable work and are eager to see whether the women’s session 2021 will bear fruit.

(Photo: provided)
(Photo: provided)

«It’s a special feeling to watch the cows»

FS: Anne Challandes – What is your role on your farm?

AC: As I am often absent, I take care of some of the domestic tasks and I share decisions, administration and accounting together with my husband and our children according to their individual availability.

FS: What is the importance of suckler cows for your farm and for you personally?

AC: Suckler cows are both a branch of production and a part of our life as farmers. They are an integral part of a cycle, they add value to the grassland, produce food and provide manure. They are also part of the Swiss landscape, which they help to maintain. I love the cows. It‘s a special feeling to watch them, it brings me peace and well-being.

FS: Tell us a bit more about your farm.

AC: On our farm live: our family of 6, including our 4 children, all more or less adults, and our animals. My husband’s father also lives here, but is independent. My husband and our eldest son work for the farm, as well as a third-year apprentice. As mentioned earlier, I participate in certain activities. Our other 3 children also help out, for instance with weeding and blacken control.

Our farm has 65 hectares of UAA (utilised agricultural area) and meets the requirements of the Bio Bud. Since summer 2015 we have gradually replaced our dairy cows with a herd of 25 suckler cows. Our breeding is mainly based on the Angus breed. But we also have a few Aubrac and Limousin cattle.

Our crops are diversified: grassland, wheat, barley, rape, maize, oats, lupins, quinoa, sugar beet, chickpeas, lentils, some of which are produced for breeding. Quinoa, lentils, chickpeas and rapeseed oil are sold directly.