In the city of Geneva — home to the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and about 200,000 residents — you can also find a small organic farm known as Ferme de Budé. In the 1960s, some thoughtful urban planners thankfully had the foresight to preserve a portion of this agricultural gem for public use. As a result, the public market at this farm has continued to supply locally-grown produce for over 50 years.
When I heard the farm was offering guided tours of its operations earlier this month, I signed my family up for a visit. Here’s a quick summary of what we learned about this unique farm, situated in the middle of one of Geneva’s residential neighborhoods.
A Brief History of the Farm
Between 1720 to 1722, the Budé family built their stately home in Geneva’s countryside within an area known as Petit-Saconnex. In addition to the Maison de Budé, the property had an immense farm with livestock and fields of various crops. As the city grew over the centuries due to increased urbanization, Petit-Saconnex was absorbed by the city of Geneva in the 1930s.
Decades later, the Budé family sold their estate to the canton of Geneva in 1955. As parcels of the original estate were divided and developed into apartment buildings, the garden surrounding the Maison de Budé was preserved as a public green space. Over half a hectare of the farm, including the stables and other associated buildings, were saved for agricultural uses. As a result, Jean Marti, the farmer for the Budé family, remained at the farm until his retirement in 1996.
Following his retirement, and that of another farmer who took his place, Jean-Pierre Viret in 2009, a group of young farmers took over the farm’s operations and continue to lead its management. They include Julien Chavaz, Léo Zulauf and Sacha Riondel.
Fresh Produce in the City – Visiting Ferme de Budé
During our guided tour, we had the opportunity to learn about the different parts of the farm from the people who do the work. We toured the fields filled with healthy, green plants — abundant with organic basil, zucchini, bright orange squash and more. The farmers discussed their efforts to rotate crops and mulch with grass clippings from the park next door, as well as other permaculture and organic farming techniques.
Honey production also takes place at the farm. We saw the bee hives behind the public market as part of our tour. The farm’s honey has the flavor of tilleul (linden) because these tall trees grow along the perimeter of the fields.
Next to the bee hives, we saw the five brown sheep that live and graze at the farm. They are a Swiss breed known as Brun noir du pays, which we were told are “rustic and resistant.”
Our guided tour ended in the public market, housed in the former stables. The market is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. On Saturdays, it opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 4:00 p.m. Along with the fresh organic produce from the farm, you can also find other local products, such as meat, fish, cheese, bread, beer and wine.
My husband picked up some local beers from the market and picnic cucumbers, which my kids really liked. I bought some stone-ground rye flour from the Ferme des Verpillères in Choulex.
After making our purchases in the market, we joined everyone from the tour outside for some refreshments. We tasted local goat cheese, puffed wheat, fresh tomatoes, different basil varieties and local beer and wine.
Not only does the farm provide fresh organic produce, it also serves as a place to teach children and teens about agriculture in a hands-on way. As part of the Association Ecole à la Ferme, Ferme de Budé hosts school groups with students. For children between the ages of 2 to 15, it organizes workshops during the various growing seasons at the farm.
A Swiss urban farm you should visit
Ferme de Budé helps connect the city of Geneva with its agricultural past and gives people the chance to purchase organic produce grown right in their own neighborhood. Plus, it has friendly and knowledgeable staff who are more than willing to answer your questions. If I lived in Geneva, I could certainly see myself shopping there regularly. Instead, I will just have to visit when I can and follow their good work via social media.
Ferme de Budé, 2, c. Moses Duboule 2, Geneva, tel. 022 777 17 00, www.ferme-de-bude.ch
Updated: December 30, 2022