The foire des plantes et nature in Prades is a twice yearly event organised by les herbes folles. The first is in late April, and the second in November. There are around 12 plant sellers and a variety of transformers, who use plants and or essential oils to make dried herb selections, soaps, balms and cosmetics. The usual associations, like Nature et Progres, the anti OGM crew, are there also. On the plant side there are two or three herb sellers, an Jean-Paul Hardy, from Bio Succulentes, an organic cactus guy from Perpignan, an organic fruit tree grower from the high Aude valley, a good selection of house and garden plants as well as the inevitable bonsai arrangement sellers. They have a number of activities for kids as well as a couple of conferences around the thyme of nature and the environment. Lunch can he had, well a plate of vegan veggies, crepes and pancakes, and the organising association fry up organic pork sausage sandwiches. There is a buvette, thankfully that starts serving up coffee first thing and then supplies beer and wine all day. A great addition this year was a wonderful four piece band, Docteur Zénon, that played a set in the morning and another in the afternoon, I had never heard of Afro Blues before but will look out for it now.
I have been going for about four years, both Spring and Autumn. Prades is a little out of our radar so it is a great opportunity to connect with a newer set of clients, there is some cross over with the clientele in Perpignan, but many of the Prades people would not been seen dead in he big city.
This year they decided to take the risk and organise the fete on the boules pitch quite close to the centre, in previous years they have rented the town sports hall. When I left the Domaine last Sunday I had my doubts about the wisdom of that decision, Canagou was already snow topped and the wind was blasting out of the Pyrennes, the van was being buffeted across the road. However as we got closer to Canagou, Prades sits at the mountain’s feet, the sun forced it’s way through and the wind dropped. On arriving the temperature was at least 12 decrees warmer than in the Corbieres, and a warm sunny, windless day arrived. The wind and the clouds only returned for the last half hour of the afternoon.
As usual the organisers had done a good job or ensuring that the fete was well publicised and they had also put up road signs to guide people to the area. I had barely unpacked before the first clients arrived. The morning flashed by only, in typical French fashion, calming down at the lunchtime apperro hour. As usual with these all day events you realise about 70% of your sales in the morning, Sunday afternoons are more about people walking off lunch, so afternoons tend to be more a spectacle than a market as such. However it wasn’t a complete waste of time, there were enough people who arrived after lunch to keep us all ticking over.
Flower festivals and organic festivals are always our best events, the people who come are motivated by a passion for plants, and or organic. You learn a lot, both from the clients and from talking to your colleagues. It is also a time to discover new plants, this year I was able to restock on aspic lavender to replace the mother plant that dies, a new citronella mother plant and a marjolaine hortensis, sweet marjoram, or marjolaine à coquilles, which is much more flavourful than the marjolane officinalis we have been growing. It is also a great time to catch up on the news, and gossip, from colleagues. It was great to see Thierry Thibault, from Perpiniere Arome et Sens in Claira, from whom I got the citronella and the marjoram, Yan Surguet, from Les roses ancienne du jardin de Talos, has the most amazing selection of organic roses I have ever seen. The fruit trees that Juliette and David Watson from Perpiniere Watson, and Sebastien Grange, from Perpiniere Grange flew off the shelf. If you missed them then you can always re-find them at the Fete de l’Arbes that Nature et Progres are organising for the second year in Lagrasse on the 4th December. They also sell direct and you can find their catalog and addresses on the website links.
The Spring foire is previewed for the 22nd April next year.
So I came back with a half empty van, a purse full of money and some new interesting additions to our plant family. A great day out.