A article of interest to all PSPA members submitted by Bettsy Mosimann from the New York Times.
SAULX-LES-CHARTREUX, France — Two years ago, Elisabeth Lavarde decided to quit her office job in Paris and start a new life in Saulx-les-Chartreux, a small town with two butchers and one baker just south of the capital.
Ms. Lavarde, 39, is now an apprentice farmer at a 24-acre farm that grows organic vegetables, sold directly to local consumers. New farmers like Ms. Lavarde usually make what they see as a decent salary of about 1,500 euros, or about $1,600, a month, slightly above the French minimum wage.
“I wanted a job with more meaning,” she said. “I felt like I was tilting at windmills.”
Alongside the experienced farmer she has been paired with as part of a training program set up by an association that nurtures small-scale farmers, Ms. Lavarde grows around 40 kinds of organic produce, including tomatoes, potatoes, cauliflowers and carrots.
As the sun was about to set behind rows of cauliflower plants on a recent afternoon, Ms. Lavarde gazed over the land she cultivates. A few yards away, a large shelter of tarpaulins rippled in the wind. Ms. Lavarde and her farming tutor, Guilain Vergé, 31, use the shelter to do their bookkeeping and to keep track of their crops on a whiteboard as they wait for authorization from the local government to build a decent barn.
It’s all hard work, she acknowledges. But, she says, “Seeing the sky every day, be it blue or gray, it’s amazing.”
More younger people like Ms. Lavarde are making lives as small-scale farmers in France, drawn in some cases by idealistic notions of tilling the land and of getting away from the rat race of the cities. They often leave behind well-paid jobs, as well as relatively comfortable lives that they nonetheless find unfulfilling.
Powering this small-scale farming drive is a thriving market for organic food that amounted to nearly €7 billion in France in 2016, according to Agence Bio, which tracks the trade in the country. The drive has also been bolstered by an increased awareness of the environmental and health benefits of consuming local products…
By BENOÎT MORENNEJAN. 17, 2017
Photo: Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times