"Swiss farmers still suffer under the prejudice that they are a bit conservative and uptight." That, at least, is the assessment of Urs Schneider, the deputy head of the Swiss Farmers' Union.
But once again this year, the farmers' calendar is out to challenge that perception. Half-naked farmer girls sprawled on hay bales, brawny lads practicing a bit of animal husbandry, the images have proven to be an annual bestseller in the Alps. And this year, the makers of the calendar have their sights set on Germany.
"We want to show Switzerland in its best light, the countryside and a bit of its culture," Tina Steinauer, the photographer of this year's calendar, told SPIEGEL ONLINE by phone from a Swiss farm in Berner Oberland where she is shooting on Monday. "My responsibility is to do it in a sexy way."
The concept is hardly a new one. Switzerland got its first taste of farmer friskiness in 2005, with the men's edition arriving for 2009. And the trend toward baring it all in the barnyard has spread as far afield as Sweden and even the US.
But the Swiss project, run by a small publishing house in association with the Swiss Farmers' Union, now wants to export the project to Germany. This year's calendar, publisher Mike Helmy told SPIEGEL ONLINE, will include one German farm girl, though he declined to say what month she would illustrate. And next year, his publishing house plans an all-German version of the calendar.
The temptation to cross the border is clear. The calendar has been a bestseller in Switzerland ever since it first appeared, with 11,000 copies of the farm girls calendar sold each year and the farm boys selling 6,000. Plus, with hundreds of hopefuls applying each year, finding farmhands willing to strip off has proven no great challenge.
Promising applicants must then appear before a jury where the number is whittled down from hundreds to just a few dozen.
And the images themselves? "We want to show the rural atmosphere," says Steinauer, who is shooting her very first Swiss farmer calendar. "It's not a stubborn concept. I really have no idea what pictures I want to take before we start shooting."
Helmy elaborated. "Today we saw goats at the shooting site. They were very nice and we said we need to do something with goats. We just want a bit of bucolic rusticity."