Canton of Zug,21.12.2018

The 1,000th cherry tree is planted in Zug

Ten years ago, Ueli Kleeb and Heiri Scherer had an ambitious idea: to plant 1,000 cherry trees (chriesibäumen) in Zug. They started with the planting of 17 trees at the St. Verena Chapel. The IG Zuger Chriesi has now achieved its target.
Photo: Ueli Kleeb, the initiator of the project, by the last tree, planted at the St. Verena Chapel
Zuger Chriesi (cherries), Zuger Kirschtorte (cherry cake), Zuger Kirschwasser - Zug is the cherry land par excellence. But this centuries-old cultural heritage looked like it could die out. At the last census in 2001, the cherry tree population in the whole canton had decreased by 66%. Every time he took a walk on the Zugerberg, there seemed to be fewer cherry trees, according to Ueli Kleeb. The two Zug residents Kleeb and Scherer did not want this tradition to disappear. They founded Zug Cherry interest group (IG Zuger Chriesi) the, with the goal of planting 1,000 new cherry trees in Zug.
Working together with Caroline Lötscher, Ueli Kleeb quickly set up a far-reaching network. "We used a kind of guerrilla tactic: we spoke to people directly, and mercilessly exploited our relationships," remembers Kleeb. Louis Suter, cantonal manager for fruit cultivation, then became the first president of the interest group.
"Of course, there were also critics at the beginning, and two major hurdles had to be overcome," remembers Kleeb. The first was to convince the city council, which was undecided at first, until the city president Dolfi Müller gave the green light: "I have a certain flair for the subversive," said Müller recently about his decision.
The second hurdle was also overcome when, with the help of the city gardener Josef Strickler, the IG succeeded in getting the farmers from Zug on board. "In the meantime, three out of four farmers in the canton have cherry trees," says Kleeb. "Without them, the project would have been doomed to failure." The farmers cultivate the trees on their land and harvest the cherries, for which they receive financial support from IG Zuger Chriesi. In addition, they also receive subsidies from the canton.
With the support of the city council and many farmers, the project ran better than ever. In 2011, the then government councillor (Regierungsrat) Heinz Tännler, declared the Zuger Chriesi to be the strategic goal of the canton. The current State Councillor, Peter Hegglin, became the new president of IG Zuger Chriesi. In addition to numerous private individuals, many companies became cherry tree godparents. "Many influential people in Zug hold a sponsorship," says a delighted Kleeb. Today, the IG today has about 1,200 members – it’s one of the largest clubs in the canton of Zug.
This year, at the ‘Lebkuchenfeier’ (gingerbread celebration), the project's initiators were honoured by the city council for their dedication in favour of Zug. "The gingerbread celebration represents the commitment of the city to the living cherry culture," says Ueli Kleeb. The city has not only revived an old cultural landmark through the many trees. Many traditions such as the Chriesigloggä (cherry bells) or the Chriesisturm (cherry race) have also been re-launched: Zug is not only a financial metropolis, but also the city of cherries. "Cherry Town meets Crypto Valley," says Dolfi Müller.
In the meantime, cultivating cherry trees has become worthwhile for the farmers in Canton Zug. "The kilo price for Zuger cherries has almost doubled," says Kleeb. Above all, demand has increased. The Hirz company, for example, now produces a "Zuger Chriesijoghurt" (cherry yoghurt), which is sold throughout Switzerland. The Chriesianbau (cherry tree cultivation) in the canton of Zug has been declared as a "living tradition of Switzerland" since 2010. In addition, Zuger Kirsch is protected by the AOP label, and genuine Zuger Kirschtorten can be recognized from their IGP label. The Zuger Chriesikultur is therefore facing a golden future.
The "1000 cherry trees for Zug" project has been completed after a period of ten years, with the 1,000th cherry tree being dedicated to the president, Peter Hegglin. The young, high-stem tree was planted where the project started ten years ago: at the of St. Verena Chapel, where the streets are now lined on both sides with cherry trees.
" Chriesi, Kirschenkultur rund um Zugersee und Rigi” (Cherry culture around Lake Zug and Rigi), in German only, published by DNS-Transport Train (Ueli Kleeb & Caroline Lötscher), 600 pages, available from Edition Victor Hotz, Steinhausen, bookstores or directly here, 88 francs. ISBN 978-3-9 524 417-7-0.