Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The state of local agriculture.



I had a long chat with my lovely neighbour, Laurence, recently; and what she had to say about farming was really quite depressing.

There are only a handful of crops now grown by farmers in this area; Wheat, Maize, and Sunflowers being the main ones. A few farmers still have dairy herds, but most of the cattle one sees are kept for fattening.

Otherwise there are Chestnuts, Walnuts, and, if one's lucky, a few Mushrooms.

It seems that almost everything is either no longer profitable, or disease is slowly taking over.

My other neighbour, Jean-Claude, has grown several hectares of Maize this year (as he always does), and will sell the crop as seed, rather than making silage. I gather that he will just about 'break even'.

He spreads manure, ploughs, brings in a contractor to sow the maize, he spreads fertiliser, he sprays weedkiller, he waters copiously, another contractor comes in to harvest, the grains are taken away and dried until of the correct moisture content, it is stored, then eventually sold. Every stage costs money, on top of which he has tractor costs, and has to pay taxes on his land. As I said above, he is lucky to break even. (Above is his crop).

We spoke of what other crops could be grown; nothing came to mind that could easily be sold. She also said that this year's Chestnut crop could well be the last one of any real quantity, as the Cynips bug has really taken hold.

Things do not look good.

No young people are wanting to follow their parents onto the land, and I can see the day when farms will be sold to people who have no interest at all in farming. Belgians, Dutch, and English will buy the more attractive farms for their horses, and the others; goodness knows what will become of them. Laurence said they will simply become covered in Brambles; as they did in the past.

Everything goes in cycles, so maybe one day there will be a return to actually growing things, but I think that time is still a very long way off.



34 comments:

  1. No, it is not much of a life relying on the EU CAP payment every year. Not surprisingly it is not an attractive life for the young. My family's children all chose to leave the land for the city.

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    1. My neighbour Laurence's 2 children are not really interested, and my other neighbour Jean-Claude's daughter is an accountant. And yet life is so good in the country; I don't really understand their reluctance.

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    2. Well, I suppose I do, but being your own boss and living a simple life on your own farm must have advantages.

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  2. I live in an area that was once all farm lands. Very few farms still exist and the land has been sold to developers who put up McMansions. The farmers make more money selling the land of ther ancestors than they would farming the land for 25 years or more. Land is also rented to speculators who grow cash crops, wheat,corn, and soybeans for the corporate market. It is sad, but that is the way things are.

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    1. Some do try to sells plots for building, but there are very few people who want to build. Most like to buy old stone houses.

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  3. It is incredibly hard to make a success of a smaller farm. Although I have been reading up a little on this chap, who learnt a lot from growers in France.
    http://www.themarketgardener.com/

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    1. It's difficult here to make a living from growing vegs, as everyone has their own. I can't even give stuff away. Something will turn up; it always does.

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  4. Same here I'm afraid Cro. Olives and goats for a start are hard work and little income except for eu handouts. No money in citrus.
    The young unemployed are going overseas rather than back to the land. I wonder though if the move back to the land might be happening here in small steps. What else is there to do but follow in the father's footsteps

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    1. It is so fertile here, with good weather; so it seems crazy that they can't make a good living.

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  5. Philippe's farmer father has four sons and a daughter. None of them are interested in taking on the family farm, they all have other professions. The sons just tend the vineyard and the chestnut groves.

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    1. One of my neighbours has Gites.... lots of them.

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  6. The farm next to our house is just about still going with a milking herd, but I was wondering the other day what would happen to the land as it is council owned - I dread to think of the beautiful countryside around us being developed.

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    1. In the UK that's always a possibility.

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  7. Someone has to feed the people, .... who will that be in years to come, when the land is left unattended because it is seems simpler to go the city than work the land, and the farmers are finally squeezed out of earning a living, so who will feed the people? Oh, of course! The commercial food producers who bulk up the 'food' they sell by all sorts of chemical nonsense, which only serves to weaken the health of the people who they are 'feeding'.

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    1. Your final word should probably have been 'poisoning'. It astounds me the muck that is sold in the name of 'food'. Thank goodness I have a small plot of land on which I can grow most of what I eat.

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  8. Smallholdings and self-sufficiency to an extent are the answer.
    Growing different crops instead of mono-culture.

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    1. I agree. Even the mono-culture doesn't pay very well these days.

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  9. There is no money much in small farms here Cro - only the very big land owners make money, which is why when the small farms are sold they are usually bought by neighbouring farmers until they get a very large plot of land.

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    1. That doesn't seem to happen here. In the north of France there are huge wheat-growing farms, but big farms here are a rarity. Too wooded I suppose.

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  10. I sold my cattle in the spring and just made hay this year. Our CAP payment was in the hundreds and cattle became to expensive to buy and keep over winter. Now I have land for sale.

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    1. I fear this is becoming Europe wide. One has to wonder where it will end.

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  11. Our children rarely come back to the farm as they find it isolating and boring. They are city kids now. I've read that in the US, land has become an investment for the younger crowd, since they don't make it anymore. Something tangible instead of the stock market. They will find something to do with it.

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    1. I have invested in Land myself (in Scotland), and the return was good, but it worries me that so many are turning their backs on country life in favour of the cities. One day they'll wake up and regret what their decisions.

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  12. If you really want to get down in the dumps, imagine if a large share of your local economy was based upon the marijuana industry. Now, THAT'S depressing.

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    1. Why is it depressing? I thought the marijuana industry was providing lots of jobs and tax revenue on the West coast...?

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    2. It possibly is here too, but we wouldn't know about it.

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  13. Many places I loved from the orange groves of Southern California to the local veggie farm in San Juan Capistrano were sold off because the property tax was so high it choked the farmers out. Land was money and the developers won. I remember driving to work surrounded by orange groves and strawberry fields. Now they are condos and shopping centers with the same stores as the one up the road.
    What is so interesting is Orange County, California was named for the orange groves that were all over.
    Now an orange tree are grown in backyards or planters at the shopping centers. So very sad.

    One interesting note is in Japan many young adults are moving back to the countryside and returning to the farms or small businesses. Disenchanted with the expensive noisy lifestyle of the city.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Of course where I live is deep in the countryside, so there is no chance of selling land for big construction. No-one wants to live here, other than the retired!

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  14. Cro, this post and the earlier comments are very interesting.

    I agree with you about "things" going in cycles, but admit that this city dweller worries about the next cycle.

    I hope that the Koch brothers do not infiltrate the French farms. From what I have read, they do not always use the name Koch in all their business dealings.

    Certainly no one would wish to do the hard annual work of a farmer without having some hope of gaining an income.

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    1. I've lived here for nearly 45 years, and things have changed dramatically. No-one now keeps pigs or ducks, or chickens. All the small farm vineyards have gone. Milking has finished because of the hours and returns. And everyone wants a good income for as little work as possible. You can't blame them, but it all seems to have gone wrong.

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  15. We had a large farm, organic hogs, steers and dairy but none of our 4 children wanted that life. They all said "too much work for not enough money." So we sold it (twice, but thats another farm horror story) and now own just 7 acres and enough livestock for ourselves and a few friends. We are too small for any US agricultural subsidies which we would not take anyway, and 80% of our day is spend providing for our own needs. We make less and less money and we are more and more satisfied, but few young people want to work outside in all kinds of weather for the big payoff of a great potato crop or your own freezer full of yummy pork. Farming as it once was, is nearly extinct.

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    1. Donna, you should go round schools and give talks on 'Life Satisfaction'. I think a lot of young people don't even know what that is!

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  16. The new 'back to the land' movement here in US seems to involve the tiny house movement and providing for ones own needs with gardening, small stock and a home based job or business. In my area people don't have much disposable income so that even farmers markets don't do well. We keep hens, rabbits and a garden. There is less and less variety from farm stands, so was forced to grow our own. Farmers here grow hufe fuelds of corn & sotbeans...that is it.

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