Fete des Plantes Fontroide

Fete Plantes Frontfroid



14ème édition de la Fête …

Plus de 50 exposants !
Le grand rassemblement ‘jardin’ de printemps du Sud de la France

fetedesplantes2016Le temps d’un week-end, plus de 50 exposants, pépiniéristes, producteurs, présenteront un large éventail de plantes méditerranéennes, de plantes rares et exotiques, de vivaces, de roses, et de fleurs très variées.

L’art de vivre au jardin est bien sûr à l’honneur avec une sélection d’objets de décoration, outillage, ouvrages, mobilier de jardin…

S’instruire, échanger avec des conférences sur l’aromathérapie, les plantes mélliferes, des ateliers de rempotage, les conseils pratiques…

Le jeune public sera invité à participer à de nombreux ateliers associant terre, végétaux, constructions…

Et Randonnées du Massif en partenariat avec la LPO…
massif promenade corbieres
Fontfroide s’inscrit dans le vaste paysage de son massif où il fait bon randonner. Parcours à la découverte de la nature sauvage, de la faune qui y habite, de la croix qui surplombe l’abbaye…

Cette manifestation est devenue une ‘Classique’ attendue des amateurs de promenades en pleine nature sauvage et préservée sur différents sentiers balisés.



Entrée : 7,50€
Gratuit jusqu’à 18 ans

Horaires : de 10h00 à 18h00

We have been invited to attend, and will do so with pleasure, on bit of advice is to get there early as the road onto the abbey can get a little crowded. The Fete des Plantes attracts 45,000 people over the three days, which makes it the largest plant festival in the Aude, with over 50 plant sellers selling our products there is a huge range of plants, trees, and herbs.

For more information on the festival, and the Abbey of Fontfroide have a look at their website Abbaye de Fontfroide

Foire Plantes et Nature Prades

The Foire Plantes et Nature de Printemps in Prades is on Sunday 17th April, from 9am to 5pm

Foire Plantes et Nature


This lovely little plant and environment festival marks the beginning of our season. It is a sweet melange of organic and conventional producers, soil makers, herb dryers and transformers. Our good friend Manu Bernier from La Cabane du Berger will be there selling her wonderful organically certified herb based sirops, cosmetics and herbal mixtures. Out new neighbour Sevrene, a conventional plant grower also based in Maisons will be joining us. As well as plants there is a bar and food served throughout the day, and a few, sometimes distinctly odd displays and musicians performing to amuse and bemuse.

I am slowly trying to put together a calendar of events we will be attending,  it is a work in progress see here Event Calendar 2017

French Organic Market 2016

The French organic retail market has passed the 7 billion euro mark in 2016, according to the annual Agence bio, a clear 20% growth year on year compared to 2015.

The annual Baromètre Agence BIO / CSA survey indicates that nearly 9 out of 10 people, 89%, have bought an organic product in the last twelve months, with 69% buying organic products at least once a month, and a hard core of 15% who use organic products every day. This 15% is a huge 50% increase from the 19% in the same survey in 2015.

After a year of headlines about the on-going crisis in the French agricultural sector, and with avian flu gripping the country the Baromètre Agence BIO / CSA survey revealed that over 82% of the French think it is important to continue the development of the organic agriculture sector, and 83% of those surveyed saying that they have a high level of confidence in organic certified products.

When questioned about their understanding of general role of organic products and products. The strongest impact stated was environmental, with 92% believing that organic agriculture is better for the environment that industrial farming techniques, 89% believing that organic produce are more ‘natural’ than those that use synthetic chemicals, 88% saying that they think organic products are better for your health, with 80% believing that organic products guard their nutritional qualities better than industrial products, 70% agree that organic products simply taste better.

The general understanding of exactly the organic regulatory regime has also improved. 91% of those surveyed knew that Genetically Modified organisms are banned under organic regulations, and 71% were aware that colorants and artificial flavoring are also taboo. The fact that organic certification means followed strict procedures with at least one annual control by the certification body was also known to 82% of those questioned. 87% also were aware that organic rules ensure a higher decree of animal welfare and a better quality of animal feed.

Motivation of French Organic Consumers

When questioned about their motivation in buying organic as usual the belief that organic products are better for your health headed the list, 66%, good for the environment, 58%, better quality, tastes better, 56%, that organic products are safer/less likely to be contaminated, with 28% quoting animal welfare as their driving motivation.

What they buy

What people buy has not changes much year in year out, even while the French organic market grows. Fruit and vegetables continue as the largest category, followed by milk and it’s derivatives, yogurt, butter and cheese, organic eggs, and in fourth place general groceries such as pasta, rice, with meat coming in fifth. This is no real surprise as it also reflects those categories with the least organic premium in the lead, with the highest premium coming last. The strict organic rules in animal density and fodder regulations will always ensure that there remains a large price difference between, for example a cage raised, hormone fed chicken, and an organic, free range alternative.

Where they buy

The French organic retail market continues to be dominated by the large and medium sized retail operators. Specialist organic shops, while growing, we now have both a Bio Coop and a Vie Claire in little old Lezignan Corbieres, still are frequented by 31% of organic consumers as opposed to 80% who buy their organic produce from the big boys. Markets, 28%, and artisans such as organic bakers, 41% and farm gate sales, 18% play a small but important role.

Eating organic produce outside of the home has also seen a small explosion. Local government , mainly Departmental and Municipal, initiatives have seen a rapid growth in organic food being used in workplace canteens, schools and colleges, retirement homes and state and trade union run holiday camps.

The European Organic Market

According to research done by Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and the Agricultural Market Information Company (AMI) in association with IFOAM EU. The EU wide organic market in 2014 represented just over 26 billion euros, lead by Germany, France comes in second place ahead of the UK.

For the full IFOAM second edition of Organic in Europe: Prospects and Developments 2016. (PDF) can be downloaded free at http://www.ifoam-eu.org/sites/default/files/ifoameu_organic_in_europe_2016.pdf

For more information on the Baromètre Agence BIO / CSA survey you can see the headlines at http://www.agencebio.org/communiques-et-dossiers-de-presse

and download the entire report in PDF form here http://www.agencebio.org/sites/default/files/upload/AgoraBIO/dp_bio_barometre_val.pdf

The decline of Maisons and the Hautes Corbieres

The economic decline of the Maisons and the Hautes Corbieres has been in progress for over a hundred and fifty years, the final nail in the traditional rural economy was the post War industrial boom, but the decline has deep roots back into the mid 19th century. Today the Aude now ranks as Metropolitan France’s second poorest Department, with the Hautes Corbieres as one of the poorest parts of the department.

Understanding how this happened you need to take into account  the impact on the people of Maisons of  the opening up of the local economy to a larger market and the impact that had on local agriculture, the changing nature of the French labour market, as well as technological advancements.

Maisons is a relatively isolated village, today situated in the Canton of Tuchan on the border with the Canton of Mouthemet. Maisons sits at the foot of Mont Tauch with the Hautes Corbieres massif to it’s back. At 320 metres, the commune’s 1215 hectares stretches from the top of the 800m summit of Mont Tauch, down the mountain’s western slopes and up the Mouthemet massif.

At the start of the 19th century Maisons’s, then 266, inhabitants existed on a mixed subsistence agricultural economy, aided by the continued exploitation of small mining concerns that had continued from their start in Roman times. The land between the village and the La Valette, the stream that descends from the Hautes Corbieres, was used as market gardens growing all the vegetables and fruit consumed in the village. The 1835 cadastral plan shows three mills situated along La Vallette who ground the cereals, such as wheat, grown  around the village and at Montrouch. Roughly half the land worked was used to grow fodder for animals, primarily work horses, cattle and pigs. the same cadastral plan also shows 27  bergeries, shepherd’s buildings, in the commune highlighting the importance of sheep and goats to the local economy.

Forestry, represented one of the few hard currency exports of the village. After the devastation of the forests of the Corbieres following the French Revolution ( See History of the Garrigue) the Second Republic instigated a massive tree replanting programme across the Languedoc, one of the principal consumers were the naval yards along the coast.

The last part of the local economy was of course the mines. Discovered in Roman times, gold and silver were mined on the massif between Maisons and Palairac until the Middle Ages. Reopened in the early 19th century a handful of mines yielded some more silver, but primarily copper and lead.This reopening probably accounts for the population high point of Maisons in 1846 when the village boasted a dizzy 339 souls.  The last mining concession, La Mine du Canal opened in 1838 and can still be seen today, although all the others have now  been sealed off.

The late 19th century saw the gradual replacement of cereal production with vines, however the total land under production started to shrink rather rapidly. By 1913 the worked land had fallen to 288 hectares, this was to drop to 133 in 1947, 98 in 1949, 87 in 1985 and 51 in 2001.

The replacement of subsistence crops with revenue crops, which is what the transition from cereals to vines represents was made possible by the extension of railways. The railways made transportation of wine both possible and affordable, a crucial factor particularly for the rough and ready down market wines like the Corbieres AOC of the epoch. By the early 20th century there was a train line that connected Lezignan Corbieres with Tuchan Mouthmet (1902), and a second line  ran to Mouthemet  (1905). Both railheads were in reach by cart from Maisons. (This is an interesting history of the Corbieres trainline from Thezan Corbieres ).

However vines did not prove the saving grace many had hoped for. Although the number of vines grew, from 110 hectares in 1913 to 143 in 1949 so did the size of fallow agricultural land, from 562 hectares in 1913 to 718 in 1949.

In 1946 the 64 vignerons of Maisons worked an average of 3.5 hectares of vines with only one working 8 hectares and another 11. The small size of these grape growers, although aided by the village Cave Cooperative for transforming the grapes into wine and marketing meant that for most growers, vines represented an additional income and not a principal revenue. A family cannot live on the income from 3.5 hectares of vines.

Animal husbandry also suffered a massive decline, from 27 shepherds in 1836 by 1898 the herds had shrunk to 900 sheep, 40 pigs and two cows, 50 years later this has dropped to 18 pigs and 80 goats.

From its high point of 339 in 1846 the population of Maisons has been in steady decline ever since. In 1901 the village stood at 221 souls, in 1946 it had dropped to 157.  The most important drop however has been post war. In the last 60 years the village population has plummeted to less than 30 inhabitants, with the majority of our population aged over 70 years old.

The post war transformation of the French economy spelt the end of the Hautes Corbieres, with ‘marginal’ agricultural land that was not easily worked with mechanical farm machinery. The farmers of the area were unable to compete with the increasingly mechanised agriculture of the plains. In addition to this ‘push’ factor of low and variable income was the massive pull factor of readily available work in the factories of the North that offered an easier and more reliable revenue. The young of remote villages such as Maisons migrated towards the towns of the plains and the cities of the North leaving their parents to work the vines. As the parents retired there were no new arrivals to take over their farms and vineyards and the land slowly fell out of production. In Maisons there now remains one sole vineyard.

Link Maire du Maisonshttps://sites.google.com/site/maisonsaude/home

Bears in the Ariège Pyrenees

Bears in the Ariege Pyrenees is an interesting, and balanced, history of the reintroduction of wild brown bears into the Haut Pyrenees by author Julia Stagg.It is well worth a read. My own thoughts on this have changed, initially I was generally in favour of  the re introduction of top range predators such as wolves and bears. However the mountains are not used as they were, shepherds no longer live and work alongside their sheep, goats and cattle. Often living in the valleys and visiting their herds on quads. This means the flocks and herds are left unprotected for large periods of time.  Also the general use of the mountains have radically changed, walkers, climbers, cyclists, pot holers, white water rafters, canyoneers and skiers, in other words tourists, have replaced agriculture, mining, and smuggling as the regional primary sources of revenue. While these seasonal visitors may like to look at a bear in the Park at Les Angles they are less likely to be impressed with meeting them in the wild. Yes we need to support biodiversity, yes re wilding projects are innovative but banning the use of pesticides and herbicides in the Pyrenees would be hugely more beneficial to a whole range of wildlife than introducing a handful of bears. Start with the small things, like pollinating bees and leave the big things like bears and wolves for later. But I have changed my mind once and could be convinced to do so again.


The full article Bears in the Ariege Pyrenees can be read on the wonderful Ariege.com site. I hope they don’t mind but I copied the photo from them.


‘New Scientist’ Misinterprets Organic

organic-foodIn a recent article for New Scientist, Michael Le Page is wrong to tell people not to eat organic if they care about the planet. He misreads the evidence, which shows organic farming is generally the better choice, writes the Soil Association’s Tom MacMillan

But he is also coming at this back to front. Models show that simply producing food more efficiently is not going to make a big enough, fast enough dent in greenhouse gas emissions (Bajželj et al., 2014). Rather, the big win comes from us eating a different mix of foods, particularly less but better meat. How can you find that better meat, fed mainly on grass and not on crops from deforested land? Look for an organic label.

Let’s unpack this. Work by Bojana Bajželj and colleagues (2014) shows that if we project current trends towards increased yields and demand through to 2050, then agriculture and land use change alone will account for almost all the emissions the world can afford if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. That would mean every other activity, from generating energy to transport and house-building, could emit no net GHGs.

Even really optimistic yield assumptions, which assume we pull something incredible out of the bag, leave agriculture and land use taking about three-quarters of the total emissions budget, and producing around 50% more GHGs than in 2009. Whatever happens with yields, the whole picture only starts to look plausible if we change what we eat, and how much food goes to waste. Changing both could get us down below 2009 emissions, even assuming yields stay on current trends. If we do better on yields, then so much the better, as we earn a little headroom.

Exactly what a climate-friendly diet looks like is much debated. There’s something close to consensus that following current dietary guidelines, which would mean eating a lot less meat than people average in the US and Europe, would be a big help (Garnett  2014). What type of meat? We know that growing crops for animal feed is a big driver of tropical deforestation. That feed goes largely to poultry, pigs and ruminants that could be eating grass instead. Meanwhile animals fed largely on grass and other forage can do a good job of using agriculture’s ‘ecological leftovers’ (Garnett  2014). There is therefore a strong case for making sure any meat and dairy you eat has been fed largely on forage. For most people reading Le Page’s article, an organic label will be the most reliable way of tracking this down.

Le Page’s excitement about GM is a red herring at best.  For a start it is grown largely as a feed crop, so is implicated in the problem. In some of the world’s top soya-producing countries like the US, Brazil and Argentina, GM soya accounts for between 93-100% of total soya production, most of which is turned into animal feed. But there is also evidence that GM crops have had little if any productivity advantage, despite enthusiasts’ assumptions that they must.

What about everything else? Le Page acknowledges that organic farms have more wildlife. His main worry is that lower than average yields offset this. But the evidence suggests otherwise. Organic farms have an average 50% more wildlife versus a 20% lower yield. Le Page is wrong to suggest that organic food has a higher GHG footprint, according to a recent review of the evidence. Organic farming produces lower GHGs per hectare, even without taking into account higher carbon sequestration in organic systems. Adjusting for lower yields, there isn’t a consistent and significant difference between organic and non-organic foods per unit product (Knudsen et al. 2011). But which is the right measure? We should aim to halt forest destruction, reduce emissions per hectare and adjust what we eat towards the kind of diet such farming can sustain.

Meanwhile, the yield gap is closing. Organic yields can even out-perform non-organic in stressed conditions like droughts, and in developing countries.  Organic farming can also improve our resilience to climate change. Crop rotations help build soil structure, improving water storage and reducing flood and drought potential. And that’s not to mention the fact organic certification assures the highest standards of  animal welfare. If LePage wishes to find a climate friendly way of farming, he may want to reconsider organic. Organic farming does not have all the answers and there is more, even in organic systems, that can be done to reduce emissions and improve our impact on the environment. Nor does it let us off the hook from changing our diets. But it certainly can help, now and into the future, to achieve the best impact we can through those dietary choices.


Tom is Director of Innovation at the Soil Association. His role is to support continuous improvement in farming in line with organic principles. Before joining the Soil Association in 2011, Tom was Executive Director of the Food Ethics Council. He’s served on various advisory groups and boards, including the expert advisory panel for the UK Cabinet Office Food Matters report, ScienceWise, the BBSRC Science and Society Strategy Panel, and the boards of Sustain and the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership. His PhD investigated the use and abuse of science in food regulation.


This article was taken from the Soil Associations website

Soil degradation as big a threat to humanity as climate change

9fa117aec143a65c10cad3588c946cfd_mA new report published today by the Sustainable Food Trust to mark World Soil Day, explains why soil degradation is increasing and calls for it to be recognised alongside climate change, as one of the most pressing problems facing humanity.

Soil degradation costs up to £7 trillion a year and poses a grave long-term threat to food security and the environment. It reduces the ability of farmland to produce food at a time when more will be demanded of soils than ever before due to population increase and climate change.

More than 95% of the food we eat depends on soil, but half (52%) of all farmland soils worldwide are already degraded, largely due to inappropriate farming methods.

Every year, 24 billion tonnes of soil is irrevocably lost to the world’s oceans due to wind and water erosion – that’s equivalent to 3.4 tonnes for every person on the planet or a 12 tonne lorry load for an average UK family of two parents and 1.7 children.

SFT policy director, Richard Young said, “Few people think about soil when they do their shopping, in part because most root vegetables have all the soil washed off them these days, but the reality is that for every trolley of food we wheel back to our cars, we are tipping three trolleys full of the same weight of soil into the river to be washed away.

“With continuing population growth and the relentless march of climate change, we need soils to produce higher yields in the years to come, yet they are in a more depleted state than at any time in human history. Urgent action is now needed to develop common solutions which address climate change and soil degradation simultaneously”.

The problem, however, may be even worse than these figures suggest. In addition to the loss of soil itself, much of the soil that remains in the fields is losing organic matter. Organic matter is largely made up of carbon and nitrogen and these elements are being lost from soils as the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which increase global warming.

Soils with low levels of organic matter lack the ability to produce maximum crop yields, retain moisture during dry times or produce crops that resist pests and diseases. They are also unable to stand up to the physical impact of heavy rain, flooding and farm machinery.

Report – Soil degradation: a major threat to humanity

Post Brexit Agricultural Subsidies

The post Brexit vote represents a golden opportunity to rethink the way that British agriculture is subsidised, in deed whether it should be subsidised at at all. The prevailing wind however seems to be business and handouts as usual.

At the moment there are a number of key sectors that the government, of whichever colour, seem to believe should be beneficiaries of the tax payers hard earner pounds.  Failing banks, exploitative employers who’s low paid zero hour workers need income support payments to live, the arms industry with guaranteed orders, export insurance and diplomatic lobbying, and farmers.

Well actually not all farmers, the bigger the better. Of the £2.9 billion that UK farmers received in 2014-15 from the European Common Agricultural Policy around 80% goes to the largest 20% of farmers. According to the Brussels journalist group Journalismfund.eu the top recipients include such hoary hand sons of the land as Tate and Lyle, Nestle, British Sugar, and Kraft Foods not to mention some of the UK’s largest landowners such as the National Trust and the Duke of Westminster, even Iain Duncan Smith’s family pocket £150,000 a year of European tax payers money.

The irony is, that despite the reforms to the CAP to link payments to environmental policies, the main beneficiaries of the handouts are some of the worse eco offenders, particularly the mono-culture sugar beet companies. You want a drab countryside with thin top soil, streams full of NPK, pesticides and fungicides plant sugar beets.

A number of voices are calling for the Leave vote to herald a tooth and nail overhaul of the way that British agriculture is structured and supported. The National Trust, the UK’s largest farmer, has called for an end to price subsidies and the concentration of support to be focused on environmental and conservation work. The Campaign to Protect   England’s Rural  New Model Farming project sees a golden opportunity to support smaller farmers and break from the industrial agriculture model that the present European Common Agricultural Policy has helped create. The Countryside Landowners association, which represents, err,  Landowners the main benefactors of the existing regime  naturally disagrees, as does their political wing, the National Farmers Union.

On the progressive fringes the Land Workers Alliance have put together More Farmers, Better Food- A framework for British Agricultural policy  one of the better documents I have read on the issue for sometime. It combines the issue of food security, the environment, rural services, workers rights and the role of smaller and organic farms in the food chain. However while worthy and certainly worth supporting they will be very marginal in the present climate. Apart from the Green Party there is nobody inclined to listen to them.

More mainstream a wide range of food, environmental, fisheries lobbying groups, campaigns and NGOs wrote an open letter to David Davis calling for a comprehensive environmentally centered policy for food and farming.  Who knows change could happen, it will get a few articles in the Indie and the Guardian,  but the noises so far from the May government are not encouraging.

Phillip Hammond, the Chancellor (Finance Minister for non English readers) has announced that the £6 billion the UK receives from the EU annually for farming, academic projects and regional development will be honored until 2020. Well he had to really, farming, academic projects and regional development all involve long term planning and delivery, and anyway with the clowns given responsibility for Brexit, Davis, Johnson and Fox it is rather wishful thinking that they can sort out the mess they have got the UK into in the next 10 years let alone three.

The problem of negotiating Brexit is one major problem for the agricultural sector, the second is that the UK does not have an agricultural policy, none, zilch, nadda. British agricultural policy has been set by the EU Council of Agricultural Ministers, so all we have is our position in relation to the policies devised by the European Commission under the orders from that Council. All the UK’s agricultural policy is is a critique of the EU policy which the UK shoulders equal responsibility with the other EU members for having created in the first place.

So someone somewhere had better come up with some policies rather sharpish. Andrea Leadsom, the new Minister for DEFRA and a former city banker knows all about subsidised industries, albeit under rather different circumstances. However the only “agricultural” policy opinion she has that is on public record is her support for fox hunting, hardly an encouraging start. So let’s hope she can get up to speed fast. There are however a few issues she may need to sort out, under the Cameron regime DEFRA was really hollowed our, it’s budgets slashed and staff reassigned. The agricultural staff left at DEFRA have a sort of revolving door policy with the industry lobby the National Farmers union, which is more a business association than a union as such.

With the new government’s agricultural policies  unclear, not least it would appear unknown to those responsible for them the best indication is what the NFU are saying as they will have the largest voice in forming any policy.

Early indications are that inertia will be the guiding motivation. In the NFU’s  response to the rather modest proposals put forward by the Campaign to Protect of Rural Enland’s New Model Report was a highly defensive “Our members are doing a good job- business as usual”.

In response to Brexit the NFU has launched a three month consultation exercise with their membership, the key note document can only be read by members but a quick presentation can be viewed here. The key NFU argument is food security, i.e. producing as much of the country’s food in country so in the event of catastrophic events like war the UK does not starve. It is the old condom argument so effectively used for Trident, better to have one and not use it than need one and not have it.

In someways food security and local sourcing loved by us organic food producers and environmentalists coincide, both argue for supporting local production and both are resistant to long supply chains. However food security has little to be with environmental issues. An apple can be grown with one of the few varieties now taken by supermarkets, flown to a fruit polishing plant in South Africa, returned to the UK and sold in a Tescos near you and still be British while for an environmentalist it has a huge carbon footprint and the buying policies of the supermarkets are destroying biodiversity and food choice. Equally, local if you live in Cornwall could well be Brittany not the Scottish highlands.

But food security for the NFU means the covering to justify the present system, Brexit gives the NFU the chance to lobby for further protectionism under the guise of food safety, further subsidies for the replacement for imports.  There is nought as nationalist as a farmer looking for a hand out, unless of course that money is coming from Brussels.

Where it is going to get quite interesting is on casual agricultural labour, seasonal labour is a crucial part of many farms. How will the NFU deal with the issue may raise a wry smile.


Les Néo Paysants


neopaysantsLes Néo Paysants, Gaspard d’Allens and Lucile Leclair

Edition Seuil with Reporterre https://reporterre.net/

French agriculture is in plain crisis. The idyllic countryside so beloved by tourists and the French imagination is in most cases just that, an imaginary fantasy, a rosy glassed memory of a time past that in reality never existed.

France remains Europe’s largest farming nation, producing 18% of the EU’s agricultural output, that is of course pre Brexit figures. 53% of mainland France is farmland, and France is Europe’s largest producer of cereals, maize, sugar, beef, and of course wine.

The reality is however that a farmer commits suicide two day of the year, in the last ten years over 10,000 farms have disappeared and 200,000 agricultural jobs have disappeared. On average 200 farms close up ever week, for every two workers in agriculture who retire only one new starts.

The average debt per farm has risen from 50,000 euro in 1980 to 163.700 euro in 2011.This rise in debt has been driven by two key pressures, firstly the need to increase the size of a farm to maintain a standard of living under threat from lowering prices with the necessary investment in new larger machinery to exploit this large surface, the second is the increase in pesticide use, despite the Ecophyto project aiming to reduce chemical us in agriculture by 50%between 2008 and 2018 the use of pesticides has actually gone up by 5%

In France the most common size of farms is between 50 and 99.9 hectares of agricultural land , representing 97,780 farms, or 19% in 2010. The avaerage farm size has been steadily growing, from hectares in 7 in 2005. At the top end size wise, farms over 100 hectares now farm 59% of France’s agricultural land

This concentration at the top end of the pyramid is also reflected in the type of agriculture, the mixed farming of the past is being replaced by monoculture farming, dominated by cereal production and large scale animal farming, particularly milk and beef production.

Increasingly run by farmers who rarely “Get down from their tractors” as the French say. Farmers have less and less control of what they produce and how. Software programmes plugged into the latest Common Agrcultural Policy support regime decide what is sown when. Outsourcing of the key farming functions, ploughing, sowing, harvesting to work crews is more and more common. It is the major seed companies, as a condition of sale of their sterile seeds, that determine the treatments that each cereal has to be sprayed with little if any understanding of the nature of the ever thinning top soil.

Animal raising is also turning into a industrial process, whether it be shed farming of chickens, veal, pigs and beef or the faact that in Brittany, France’s leading meat producing region 78% of fodder is now bought in, almost 100% for chickens, pigs and veal production. A growing trend is that farmers actually do not own the animals they raise, they ‘bed and breakfasting’ for fixed periods of time, with feed and antibiotic treatments been delivered by the owner, often a food company not a farmer.

It is no surprise to see that the number of agricultural workers in France has plunged, in 1988 it stood at 1,176,567 , by 2007 it had dropped to 770,000.

The tradition of family farms that pass from generation to generation is breaking up, a survey in 2914 showed that 42% of farmers did not expect their siblings to take over the enterprise.

So is this slow decline and concentration inevitable, and what can be done to shift towards a more humane and environmentally sustainable agricultural system?

In Les Néo Paysants Gaspard d’Allens and Lucile Leclairlook at one encouraging trend, the neo ruralists that are turning to the farming despite not coming from an agricultural background. Now as any French film buff will tell you neo ruralists are not exactly a new phenomena. Marcel Pagnol’s Jean de Florette is all about one family and their efforts. The post 1968 generation can still be spotted hanging about at organic festivals, indeed the Domaine de Montrouch was first renovated by a 1968 couple motivated by their Maoist politics.

In Les Néo Paysants the authors use tye simple took of visiting a wide range of neo ruralists accross France anduses their experiences and context to address the key issues facing French agriculture. It is a superb introduction to the skills and experience that neo ruralists bring to their new profession, as well as the wide range of small scale agricultural projects that are re animating rural French life.

Today 30% of all new agricultural start ups are neo paysants, over 60% of these new farms are organic or in transition to organic production. France is now Europe’s third largest organic producer, behind Spain and Italy with 4% of agriculural land now under organic production representing 1.1 million hectares of farm land.

Equally important there is a strong tendency to move away from the industrial productivist model. That does not mean however a less intensive agricultural model, small scale mixed farming if done in an integrated way can be a very productive use of available land. This is true about horticultural production although organic rules about the space required for animals means that meat production requires more land per head, equally organic cereals and viticulture have on the whole lower yields per hectare. Recently released research from the Rodale Institue on it’s thirty year comparison of industrial agriculture yields vs organic methods however cast doubts on this generalization see http://rodaleinstitute.org/our-work/farming-systems-trial/ It is naturally being contested by the industrial agriculural lobby.

Alternative marketing systems are slowly emerging, from local producers markets, organic markets, box schemes, to local producers co op shops. Restaurateurs are finding that marketing themselves as users of locally produced products and traditional recipes are attracting a loyal clientele. Here in France school canteens are being actively encouraged to source locally. Increased consumer interest in organic and local production has been a factor in the growing market aided by associations such as the Slow Food movement.

Such positive developments however can be over egged, the rise of out of town shopping centres, the French are second to the US on them, low cost supermarkets, pre-prepared meals and fast food all means that we are a long way from an alternative food paradise. Having more pizzerias than Italy, and being McDonald’s second most profitable market show that the reality is going to be a lot harder to change than green activists would have one believe.

Estivale de la bio d’Olargues

Estivale de la bio d’Olargues
Lun 15 août 2016
Organisateur : CIVAM Bio 34

80 exposants (producteurs, transformateurs, artisans, associations) proposent de découvrir leurs produits : vins, fromages, viandes, miels, confitures, pains, huiles, fruits et légumes …
Des exposants présentent aussi des vêtements, cosmétiques, huiles essentielles et parfums bio…

80 exhibitors (producers, processors, artisans, associations) propose to discover their products: wines, cheeses, meats, honey, jams, breads, oils, fruits and vegetables …
Exhibitors propose also clothes, cosmetics, organic essential oils and perfumes …

Pour les amateurs de jardinage, on peut trouver des semences bio, des produits naturels pour le jardin, des livres sur le jardinage bio et des conseils personnalisés.

For home gardeners, you can find organic seeds, natural products for gardens, books on organic gardening and personal advice.

Ecoproduits, éco habitat et artisanat sont aussi au rendez-vous !
Un espace restauration et des stands dédiés permettent aux visiteurs de faire une pause bio dans la journée.


Marché de produits biologiques, écoproduits, écohabitat, artisanat


Programme :

9h – 19h30 : Marché de produits biologiques, écoproduits, écohabitat, artisanat, énergie renouvelable…

9h – 14h : Ateliers culinaires avec les produits biologiques du marché
Réalisé par Benjamin ANDRE, Diététicien-nutritionniste.
9h – 19h : Land art, argile, peinture, origami, éponge écolo, jeux en bois
Animés par l’association « Les happy bio verts »

9h30 – 11h : « Economie d’énergie dans l’habitat et Aides financières à la rénovation énergétique »
Conférence de Ferréol COERCHON, Conseiller Info Energie au Pays Haut Languedoc et Vignobles.

10h – 12h : Atelier de peinture végétale
Animé par l’association BAOBANE

10h – 18h : Animation musicale « Ambiance Guinguette » et annonces des moments forts
Réalisée par INDIGOK Duo de musiciens

10h – 18h : Ateliers « gestion des déchets : bougeoir en canette et porte monnaie en briques alimentaires »
Animés par le centre CEBENNA

11h -11h30 : « Jouons sur les thèmes Nature, Sciences, Curiosités et spécialités locales »
Animé par Hélène PAGES, INDIGOK Duo de musiciens

11h – 11h30 : Atelier « Faire soi-même ses cosmétiques et ses produits d’entretien »
Animé par « Les happy bio verts »

11h – 12h : « Réussir son jardin naturel et économe en eau »
Conférence de Catherine GARNIER, Association Les jardins de Tara (relais des éditions écologiques Terre vivante ®).

11h – 18h30 : Maquillage pour enfants
Réalisé par « Doubles Faces », maquilleuses de spectacle

11h30 – 12h : Apéro conté, suivi du petit vin blanc
Animé par une troupe de conteurs amateurs et INDIGOK

13h – 15h : Atelier de peinture végétale
Animé par l’association BAOBANE

13h30 – 15h : « Pourquoi et comment manger bio sans se ruiner »
Conférence de Claude AUBERT, Ingénieur agronome – écrivain pionnier de l’agriculture biologique (co-fondateur de Terre Vivante®).

14h -15h : Sieste contée « Conte du monde pour se détendre »
Animée par Virginie LAGARDE, Conteuse

14h30 – 15h : « Jouons sur les thèmes Nature, Sciences, Curiosités et spécialités locales »
Animé par Hélène PAGES, INDIGOK Duo de musiciens

15h – 15h30 : Atelier « Faire soi-même ses cosmétiques et ses produits d’entretien »
Animé par « Les happy bio verts »
15h – 16h : « Alimentation vivante et santé »

Conférence d’Agnès SLACIK-MARTIN, Nutri-thérapeute (Phytozen® Cévennes).
15h – 16h : Spectacle « L’école des petits clowns »
Réalisé par Christian SAVIER, Compagnie ENCIMA

16h – 17h : « Le numérique libre : se passer de Windows®»
Conférence de l’association Les Happy Bio verts.

16h – 17h : Atelier jardinage
Réalisé par le CIVAM Bio 34

16h – 18h : Sculpture de ballons
Réalisé par Christian SAVIER, Compagnie ENCIMA

16h – 16h30 : TOMBOLA de l’Estivale de la bio

16h30 – 17h : « Jouons sur les thèmes Nature, Sciences, Curiosités et spécialités locales »
Animé par Hélène PAGES, INDIGOK Duo de musiciens

17h – 17h30 : Initiation à la Zumba enfants
Animée par Sigrid BOGAERTS, Association Zumba Pilates

17h30 – 18h : Initiation Zumba adultes
Animée par Sigrid BOGAERTS, Association Zumba Pilates

16h – 18h : Atelier de peinture végétale
Animé par l’association BAOBANE

18h – 19h : Visite historique du village médiéval d’Olargues
Réalisé par Jean-Claude BRANVILLE, 1er Adjoint au Maire d’Olargues


Téléchargez le programme au format pdf

04 67 06 23 90


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