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Farm to Fork in Charente

With the current food trend focusing on the idea of ‘Farm to Fork’, and with some supermarkets even putting pictures of individual farmers alongside their products, today the emphasis is definitely on good, locally grown food.

One of the easiest ways to buy local is to head to one of the many regular markets in the region. As part of a push to make people aware of their local markets, and in particular Les Marchés des Producteurs de Pays that are held through the summer, La Chambre d’Agriculture de la Charente took to the stalls around the country to chat to local producers. Here’s a selection of interviews...

PIERRE VERGNAUD,

ORGANIC BEEF FARMER

How long have you raised beef cattle?

Since 1978 but until 1998 I was a conventional farmer. Then in 1998, in a flash of inspiration, I decided to go organic. Since then, everything has changed for me. For 20 years I was a traditional farmer but I didn't have a sense of being part of agriculture. In contrast, this morning there was a job at the farm, then I cut up some meat and finally this market. It makes it all more interesting.

How are your animals raised?

I do not keep many animals per hectare of land. They live eight months of the year outside on pasture and during winter they are fed on hay, organic cereals and beans.

Do you sell much at market?

I sell 95 percent of my products at markets. I prefer them to salons where people eat but do not buy. Summer markets such as the Marchés des Producteurs are good because one can promote one’s products much more in the summer than the winter. There are customers I only see during the summer!

Where to find Monsieur Vergnaud?

* Marché Bio de Champniers (first and third Wednesday of each month from 4pm-7pm)

* Rue Principale, Exideuil: all day Friday

* Limoges market at place Marceau, Saturday mornings.

 

LUCIEN PETIT, SNAIL FARMER

How would describe what you do?

I am a snail farmer. I breed them, raise them, cook them and then sell them – I do it all, from A-Z! I’ve done it for the past 19 years.

What do you like about your work?

Everything! I am passionate about it. The reproduction is quite technical, and I also like cooking and then the selling.

What do you sell?

Cooked snails made the Charentaise way. I use a traditional recipe that originated in Mansle. I also sell snails in butter, snails à La Bourguignonne, petits gris and gros gris and preserved snails. In winter I make sausages from snails.

Do you sell a lot at market?

Markets are important for me because it’s where I can talk to my customers who often have a lot of questions – they want to know exactly what they’re buying. I have a website but markets allow me to really promote my products. I try to convince the British to buy my snails – they are very curious about them!

Where to find Monsieur Petit

At his farm shop: 32, Rue de La Maigrerie, 17240

Lorignac; www.charente-escargots.com.

 

XAVIER CHANSSARD -  AUROCH FARMER

How did you come to farm these very unusual animals?

I lived in Africa for some time and that made me decide to change my life. I wanted to bring back to life the land that once belonged to my grandfather and so I started farming aurochs in 2006. They are an ancestor of beef cattle – you can see pictures of them on the Lascaux caves. I am passionate about prehistory and so wanted to have contact with these animals, and others ancient breeds.

How many aurochs do you have?

I have a herd of 90 which is the biggest in France. They are easy to keep as they eat grass and they don’t need to be fattened for their meat. And they don’t need any help with reproduction.

What other animals do you raise?

The black Gascony pig and with them and the aurochs I make rillettes, sausages, hams and ready-to- eat meals. I do all the cooking myself. I also have watusi, the breed of African cattle that the Massai tribe keep. They have horns are up to two metres long. I am the first farmer in Europe to have these cattle.

What kinds of people buy your products at market?

I see a little of the world – locals, holidaymakers, regular clients and those who want to try something a little different.

Where to find Monsieur Chassard

* Farm shop: Bourgé-Pougné, 16700 Nanteuil-en-Vallée; www.aurochsvert.com.

* Organic food markets throughout the year.

LES MARCHÉS DES PRODUCTEURS

These markets, which start at a very civilized 6pm instead of 6am, are largely held during the summer.  See www.marches-producteurs.com

 

© All rights reserved. Originally published in The Journal

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