The challenges of organic farming in rural France
Organic farming is the cultivation of land without the use of artificial fertilizers and involves green manure, crop rotation and compost or in the case of pastoral farming, the rearing of livestock in natural open environments free from chemicals, genetic modification or genetic breeding. The employment of green manure and compost provides a sustainable mode of farming the land that prevents the build-up of toxic waste; crop rotation not only ensures land is re-usable and not exhausted from intensive farming but also enriches soil and prevents flooding, whilst the lack of artificial pesticides, chemicals and animal medicines involved limit the potential of produce to be cancerous and significantly reduce acid rain and pollution; in short, the benefits of organic farming to human health, the water cycle and the ecosystem are multifarious.
However, the recession continues to deepen its destructive roots in countries throughout Europe; spending power has dropped to its lowest since 1984 in France and although consumers may be open to leading eco-lifestyles, many simply cannot afford the burdening costs of purchasing organic produce. Despite substantial funding for eco-farming from the French government and international farming networks such as the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, which provide farms with volunteer workers, as economic pressures increase, the labour intensive nature and low productivity of this mode of agriculture means organic farmers and winemakers continue to find it a challenge to make ends meet and several fall bankrupt or renounce organic farming methods in favour of the more profitable and less labour intensive inorganic farming. Organic farmers in the south- such as those from Minervois like François Gardey de Soos, whose brother lost his farm due to financial non-viability and is all too aware of the low profit margins- determinedly continuing in the domaine of organic farming at their own financial peril are forced to go door to door to sell produce as a means of pleading with consumers to support the local community; making many wonder just why more is not being done to help these local agriculteurs on their quest to protect the environment.
Just how beneficial really is organic farming to the environment? Is the yield of organic farming too low to supply produce on a global scale? Should more be done to promote the purchase of organic goods? Will southern France lose its traditional farming and winemaking culture to multinational corporations? Should the French government do more to aid struggling agriculteurs in the organic farming industry? Is the government already investing too much into the organic farming industry?
If you’d like to read up on organic farming you may like to have a look at the following pages on agriculture in France, changes in E.U. policy that benefit multinationals rather than local farmers, debates on whether or not the E.U. subsidy reforms can encourage greener farming, whether organic farmers could survive without subsidies and whether organic farming is feasible on a worldwide scale.
Some informative blogs for those wishing to gain a more in-depth knowledge of organic farming and the international organic farming network W.W.O.O.F.: WWOOFing in France, Myblueeyeswithoutblinders and Farmviability.
- Organic sellout: USDA guts organic rules to protect mega-farms (mercurynews.com)
- Saramaccan Organic Farming (groundupproject.net)