What it's all about
Text: Nik Thomi, Photos: Linn Jousson, Illustration: Bruno Yerly
Votre Cercle de Vie is the story of a farming family from the Pays-d'Enhaut in Vaud. But it is also the story of the belief in the wholeness of the human organism, in the power of synergies and biodiversity. It is the story of the courage to pioneer, to give up control and to trust. And it is the story of the idealistic struggle against the alienation of modern man from nature.
Agriculture as an umbilical cord
When Esther Gerber was born in the mid-1980s on a mountain farm in the Simmental, no one would have expected that 38 years later she would be the protagonist of a feature film about what is probably Switzerland's most revolutionary sustainable farming project: Votre Cercle de Vie - initiated by Esther Mottier-Gerber and her husband Nicolas Mottier. An agricultural competence center that is intended to function as a unique microcosm consisting of 18 different fields of activity in a self-contained manner. A circle of life built according to the "cradle to cradle" principle: from food to furniture to water, animal excrement and waste, everything is to be collected, transformed and reused. A center that aims to reconnect people with nature. Since for Esther Mottier-Gerber it is clear: "You can only take care of something that you know." And agriculture, as the umbilical cord between man and nature, is probably the most important link.
In the name of the next generation
The Mottiers laid the foundation for their ambitious project by gradually converting to biodynamic agriculture and opening two organic stores and a naturopathic practice. However, the final impetus to consistently pursue their chosen path came with the birth of their son Laurent. "Suddenly we realized the immediacy of the need for action," says Esther Mottier-Gerber. "With the birth of a child, you become aware that your actions on earth not only affect you, but in a direct way, the next generation." Instead of waiting for politicians to find solutions in the fight against the looming climate catastrophe, the Mottier-Gerber couple thought about what they themselves could do with the means at their disposal.
Thus, the idea matured to establish a competence center that would connect man and nature in a symbiotic way. The futuristic-looking buildings will one day house not only a stable, guest rooms, a restaurant and a natural wellness oasis, but also an organic food store, practices for general medicine and naturopathy, and classrooms.
Earning money in a sustainable way
Besides the idealistic desire to promote biodiversity and sustainability in general, the focus from the beginning was also on profitability. "We want to prove that economy and ecology do not have to be opposites," says Esther Mottier-Gerber, referring to the claim that Cercle de Vie should serve as a model and be applicable to other farms and other regions of Switzerland.
In order to be able to realize this monumental and extremely complex project, the Mottiers rely on a huge network of supporters. "Over the past 12 years, more than 500 people have contributed to the project," says Esther Mottier-Gerber. "In addition to countless companies, various universities are also involved. For example, one engineer figured out for us that the waste heat from just one pig could heat an entire modern, well-insulated house. Such findings are fascinating and very valuable to us."
Construction of the competence center is to begin soon. After nine years of coordination work with the canton of Vaud and 21 offices involved, the Mottiers are now waiting for the final approval of a federal commission. After that, the public building application can be submitted. The financing too is well on its way. Crowdfunding has so far raised over 90,000 Swiss francs. Provided no objections delay the project, it should be possible to celebrate the opening in three years. However, the pioneers have already achieved one goal: "We wanted to show that everyone, no matter what their background, can make a difference." You bet!
Movie about Esther Mottier-Gerber
«Le Pari d’ Esther»
With the film "Le Pari d'Esther," freelance journalist Camille Andres and her team document the ecological changes in the Vaud Alps and explore the question of what the greatest challenges are for agriculture and tourism in the face of global warming. For this, they portray a remarkable woman, imbued with a deep conviction: Man must be brought back into harmony with nature.