Bäuert

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In some areas of Switzerland (Berner Oberland or Graubünden) a Bäuert is a small farming community. It is a type of agricultural cooperative with shared equipment and land. For a time the Bäuert was the lowest level of government in some regions of Switzerland. They may also have been known as pürt, peürth, geburden, pursame or similar.

Starting around the 14th Century the members (bürtlüt) of small farming communities met together to make decisions on the use of their common lands, forests and alps. They discussed when animals would be moved to higher or lower pastures (see Transhumance in the Alps), wood usage, and road and bridge construction. With all decisions being made according to the majority in a vote. The community also appointed custodians (bürtvogt) and punished infractions. Membership was limited to those who lived in the community. Immigrants had to buy their way into the Bäuert and members who left the community lost their membership.

In the 16th Century, the rights were limited somewhat. Each member was only allowed to have as many cattle in the summer pasture as they could support over the winter. Also, each household was only allowed to have a single vote or Bäuert right.

Large church parishes included a number of separate Bäuert. For example, in 1800 the Frutigen parish included 15 Bäuert.

In the 19th Century, municipalities rose as the lowest level of Swiss government. The municipalities did not arise from the Bäuert, however, in some regions they survived as subdivisions of municipalities. In these areas, the Bäuert still provided some of the services in rural areas (such as public education) which the municipality couldn't.

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