The sweet smell of milk and cheese fills the shop on Joseph's farm. Just as we're standing at the cold cut and meat counter of the shop, where homemade products are on display, something catches our eye. It's a newborn calf taking its first steps while pressing its delicate body against a huge window at the end of the room. A deeply heart-warming moment and an immediate reminder how precious the delicacies before us truly are.
A closer look into Joseph's barn reveals 50 dairy cows. They are Abondance cattle, a breed known and cherished for its adaptability and resilience. The latter is also true for their owner: When Joseph Socquet steps into the barn, you would never guess that he only slept for three hours last night. Pink cheeks, a charming smile, and sky blue eyes. The newborn calf is to blame for the short night, but even on regular nights, Joseph doesn't need much sleep. He has too many brilliant ideas on his mind. One of them was the deeply rooted wish of becoming a farmer, and also, of being a free man.
Innovation thanks to 500 years of traditional farming
Joseph is what you would call a Megève institution. He comes from an old farming family that has stood the test of time (nearly 500 years!) thanks to its will to survive and a good dash of stubbornness. These roots are what give Joseph his drive and perseverance. It took thirteen years to realize his dream of his own farm and there were quite a few obstacles he had to overcome. Now the magnificent wooden abode and restaurant sits on the top of a hill and opens up to a breathtaking view over the village and surrounding mountains.
From the yoghurt manufactory in the cellar to the fully automated cowshed – Joseph proves that a bit of technology goes a long way on his farm. Most of all, it gives him the freedom to develop exquisitely high-quality products. He is even able to make time for other activities such as giving lectures, where he shares his knowledge. But he feels the most comfortable at home with his 'crew'. At the same time Joseph believes in the importance of being present in the world instead of "sitting around, doing nothing." In other words: A bit of networking has never done any harm.
The face behind the brand
Everything is working perfectly: The products, ranging from cheese to paté are sold in Paris' finest delicatessens. Business is booming and Megève's own also love Joseph's products. Many visitors from abroad are so thrilled that they want to recreate Joseph's concept at home. His recipe for success is easy to spell out: Keeping the entire production process under one roof – from rearing the cattle to refining the finished product. Instead of selling milk and meat to mass production, he does it all on his own. Joseph has also freed himself from all farmers' associations. That is how he can be sure to produce and maintain the highest quality level possible; one that satisfies him and is well received by locals. "People want the face behind the brand, " Joseph explains. And he represents his brand with full conviction.
Savouring the dream
"Even if everything here sparkles, you have to give it all, every day," he says. Otherwise the sparkle will quickly be lost. Whether in the shop, the barn, or when making coffee in the restaurant upstairs, Joseph exudes an air of confidence and good humour. He's always smiling, always in a good mood. The simple pleasures of a man who has the talent of achieving what he wants. He is happy to share with others. Just like he shares his homemade yoghurt. Another thing Joseph has taught himself, with the help of the Laiterie Gaiddon's former owner and master cheese maker. Joseph's dream of cows and mountains creamily melts on our tongue. Is there anything he wishes for? "Yes, energy collectors," he grins. They could make him energetically autonomous. Could there be any more freedom?! Perhaps in another one of Joseph's many dreams.
Text: Sandra Pfeifer
Photos: David Payr // friendship.is
April 13, 2016