Patient thread pullers
Walter and Marius Burch
It was a job offer that first brought Walter Burch to Val Müstair about 8 years ago. As an operational and practical trainer at PostBus Central Switzerland, Walter decided to take early retirement at the age of 62. When he then took part in an event for trainers, a well known colleague from Chur approached him and asked if he would like to come to Graubünden on a temporary basis.
The owner of the PostAuto company in Val Müstair was looking for a temporary driver for the route "Val Müstair - Umbrailpass - Stilfserjoch - Bormio - Tirano" every September, during the hunting season. Walter didn't have to think about this for long and soon settled down with his camper in Müstair at the Camping Muglin. He then lived there during the temporary period and served the aforementioned PostBus line every day.
From camping to buying a house
It came as it had to, the time he spent helping out during the hunting season soon turned into more. For example, he was asked if he could also help out as a ski bus driver in winter. Of course Walter agreed, because he liked it in Val Müstair and soon made contact with the locals thanks to his open manner. Occasionally he also served on the school bus route and so he is also well known to the children in the valley. Walti's wife, Ruth, visited Val Müstair occasionally and at some point they stumbled across the sale of the former Zöllnerhaus. Ruth was enthusiastic about the house because, among other things, it had a large garden and adjoining agricultural land, and so they decided to express their interest in buying it to the customs administration. They were successful and so the Burchs no longer had to live in a camper and moved into the house as their second home.
Family project «Red gold»
A short time later, their son Marius also followed his parents to Val Müstair. He quickly settled in Müstair too and decided to move his permanent residence here. He likes it in Val Müstair, he also has a favourite place. He often visits the Rombach spring in Tschierv, he says it is simply beautiful there. At first, it was not easy for Marius to find a job, until one day he received an offer from Camping Muglin to take over the job of groundsman. He gladly accepted the offer because of the connection to Camping Muglin. Since this job was a summer job, Marius needed an idea for the winter. It was Marius' mother, Ruth, who read the book «Yes, back then... the simple life in the Münstertal 100 years ago». There she discovered an article about saffron cultivation, which unfortunately did not happen in Val Müstair in earlier years. The delivery from Mund never arrived in Sta. Maria. She also immediately brought the idea to the family table. The whole family agreed, this project could be THE idea and took on the planning. This all happened in the summer of 2021.
The first harvest
With research on the internet and contact to a saffron producer in the canton of Graubünden, Marius acquired the knowledge for the "family project". This was followed by the purchase of 13,000 saffron bulbs. These had to be planted within a few days at the beginning of August, row by row, 15 cm distance between the planted bulbs. The motivation when Marius actually reached the last bulb was literally written all over his face. Now it was a matter of waiting and hoping that there would be something for the harvest in October. The development was better than expected and so the Burch family was able to harvest every day from mid-October. During harvesting, the flower is pinched off, spread out in the house and after a short drying period, the saffron threads are pulled out of the flower. The harvest record is 1,600 blossoms in one day, a demanding job for Marius, who is over 1.90 m tall. Marius and Walti are a well-coordinated team and manage the harvest time together.
The first saffron harvest exceeded Walti and Marius' expectations. With around 40 g of saffron, both are extremely satisfied. After the threads have been pulled, they are dried and then stored in the dark for about 3 months. Only then is the sale planned. With 3 local hotels that learned about the "red gold" from Val Müstair one after the other, they have good customers for the spice. Last year's harvest was soon sold out, so Walter and Marius are waiting for the next harvest season in October. They both have no idea what to expect, because the saffron bulbs have overwintered in the ground and they will be able to follow the development with excitement. By the way, the saffron can also be purchased directly from Walter and Marius in small cans of 125 mg.
Contact: Walter Burch, Tel. +41 79 281 78 51