Markus Knoll is 52 and runs the village alpine dairy in See. He grew up and went to school in Kappl – and now has landed up one village away. He speaks to Trisanna about instinctive flair, the atmosphere up on the mountain pasture, and why the alpine dairy may never have existed were it not for his spacious garage.
Markus, you originally studied something else, but then you ended up in the alpine dairy. How did that come about?
I actually studied to be a butcher. I spent a lot of time in the mountain pastures with my parents, and we made cheese there. And I carried on doing it with my wife later on. We made cheese and ran a snack bar on the Bodenalm in Lechtal and the Tritschalm in St. Anton.
Now you have a business here in the valley, too.
I come originally from Kappl. In 89 we bought the house here, and a couple of years later four famers came to me and suggested opening an alpine dairy.
And you said: why not?
(laughs) Yes, something like that. I thought it was a good idea, at any rate. Besides, I had an enormous garage next to my house which I wasn’t really using for anything anyway. And then the decision was very quick. Also because I always liked making cheese more than anything else.
What makes it so fascinating for you?
The variety. Because even if it might look on paper as if you’re making the same cheese – it’s not actually that easy.
What exactly do you mean?
It’s like this: if you’re producing raw milk cheese, every day is exciting – because we try every day to use our expertise to create a product with recognition value. That also means changing the recipe every season, for example. Because when the farmers change the feed given to the milk cows, it also has an impact on my work. We can only create a cheese which tastes the same throughout the year by using instinctive flair and experience.
But you’re still up on the mountain pasture, too.
In the summer I’m up there a lot. Up there the milk is better, everything is smoother and tastier. Our summer speciality is, I think, also our mountain cheese, which I produce right there on the high pasture.
Is life up there different from down below?
I think so. At least, that’s how I feel, alpine pasture life is important to me. Without the pasture we’d have no milk in the summer. And for a dairy farmer the very best thing is to prepare their cheese as near as possible to its original source. And that means up there.