Bernadette’s Take #11

Grass under the magnifying glass

The Can-Swiss Quiz with

Maya Fehr from Bluffton (Alberta)

MayaFehr8 - CopyThe Fehr family has more members than just Maya but their
property is so vast that sometimes they cannot find each other!
(Photo Maya Fehr)

Everything is a matter of optics.

Take Swiss-Canadian farm owner Maya Fehr for instance.

Maya knows how to see things right. She used to be an optometrist and had an eye shop in Wattwil in the Swiss canton of St.Gallen.

The Fehrs’ family farm, the Westhill Ranch, covers 10 quarters. That is 640 hectares. Six hundred and forty. That is 6.4 square kilometres.

MayaFehr7 - CopyThe ranch buildings. Not only humans lose themselves here
on 640 hectares. Cows, hello, where are you? Hellooooo?
(Photo Maya Fehr)

For a Swiss person whose already small country of origin named Switzerland is covered by two thirds with mountains and glaciers, this is WOW! Oh, my goodness!

I say to her: “Maya, you are a large landowner!!!” In German, we have a word for it: “Grossgrundbesitzer.” I don`t know whether there is such a thing like large landowners in Switzerland at all. It is too small.

But what does Maya say? “Well, yeah, it is a bit bigger than most people in Switzerland are used to.”

I beg your pardon??? Call this an understatement! Maya must have magnifying glasses in front of her eyes.

It was Maya`s husband, a Swiss farmer`s son, whose dream it was to emigrate to Canada. The couple could have done it in 1978, but at the time, the Swiss economy did so well that the Fehrs kept postponing it.

But every year, her husband Oswald traveled to Canada twice. Maya went with him once a year. They bought more and more land.

MayaFehr1 - CopyI think the cows went skiing, on such a beautiful winter day,
don’t you think? (Photo Maya Fehr)

Finally, in 1987, they emigrated to Bluffton, Alberta. They had 300 cows and 300 calves. (Make the comparison: A Swiss farmer on average owns 35 cows!)

Unfortunately, Mayas’s husband died four years after their arrival in Canada. He was only 52 years old. Her son who emigrated with his parents does not want to be a farmer although he is partner in the ranch, but her grandson does. He will live Oswald Fehr’s dream.

Maya could have the best spectacles in the world, but she could not see the nearest town: Rimbey is 30 kilometres away. Luckily there is a hospital which is reassuring for a 72-year-old. (One cannot get glasses there, though.)

Maya says one has to love solitude to be able to live on her farm. She does not want to go back to Switzerland. “Here it is so quiet and we have moose and wolves and elk”, she says.

So that is what you have to do when you are fed up with noise: Buy 640 hectares of land – but no cows: They moo.

MayaFehr5 - CopyNo, the cows went swimming, they are diving right now,
that is why we cannot see them! (Photo Maya Fehr)

Finally the Can-Swiss Quiz with Maya Fehr from Bluffton/Alberta

–   What gift do you bring home from Switzerland?

Chocolate that you cannot buy in Canada, like “Munzli Prügeli” (chocolate sticks).

–   What Swiss products do you miss most in Canada?

Dates from Tunesia that you can buy in Switzerland, Gelfix from Dr. Oetker for cooking my jams, flans from Wander like Caramel flans

What Canadian products do you miss in Switzerland?

Smoked salmon from Canada, cowboy hat and cowboy boots, good winter jackets

–   Which are the 3 qualities you cherish most in Canadian men or women?

Canadians are relaxed, patient (especially in lineups) and they like to help.

–   Which are the 3 qualities you cherish most in Swiss men or women?

Swiss are punctual, reliable and when they promise something, they follow up on it.

–   What triggered a culture shock for you in Switzerland or Canada (in one sentence, please)?

–   In Canada, I had to drive 7 kilometres to my neighbour to buy eggs!

–   Which Canadian or Swiss personality fascinates me?

In Canada: Terry Fox who had cancer and ran across Canada

In Switzerland: the former Swiss minister and president of the Swiss government Adolf Ogi

P.S. If you would like to fill in a Can-Swiss Quiz yourself, you are very welcome! Please send it to

MayaFehr3 - CopyNow everybody has gone to sleep, humans, cows and wolves.
It is completely quiet, just like Maya likes it best.
(Photo Maya Fehr)

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