Monday, March 2, 2009

French Farming Gets a Makeover

When my alarm went off this morning, with the NPR Morning Edition show jingle, it was like part of me was still caught deep in farming dreams. I hear the pleasant voice of Eleanor Beardsley say, "In France, nearly every industry is laying off workers except one: Farming."

My ears perk up. I am awake.

It describes that, "...French farmers say they are unable to fill thousands of positions each year. In an effort to attract new recruits, the French government has launched a campaign to jazz up farming's image." And there is a campaign, "Tomorrow I'll be a Farmer." Listen to the 4min clip here: Morning Edition, March 2, 2009. I found a snippet of the.. hip-hop cow and.. purple mohawk punk sheep commercial ad........ Do we have ads like this here? Should I be watching TV?

The radio piece ends saying that some worry this will attract "neo-rurals." I say, if it attracts anyone, yay!!! If government properly supports sustainable agriculture in that there can be a true livelihood for small-scale ag, people will figure it out - either grow into farming or find it's not right for them and continue on to something else, hopefully having discovered a greater respect and understanding of agriculture to share with others. It may be that this is another time where many of those who have grown up on farms want another life and those who have not, do. It is important for new people to learn from current farmers so that knowledge grows forward and the craft of cultivating our own food continues.

I am still working on this myself. Not signing up for a boat to France, punk dairy sheep may baaah beckoningly to me in my sleep tonight... but hoping to find a long term patch of land to love and grow food on, to deepen roots here in Portland, surrounded by a greater PNW community of so many amazing people of all stripes.

"To be a farmer...you need to be passionate and hardworking," said President Sarkozy in a recent speech on The future of agriculture. "A farmer is firstly, and I’ll never tire of saying it, an entrepreneur, one who doesn’t count his (her) hours, who bears responsibility for significant investments, who has to take up a large number of significant human, financial, technical and administrative challenges. He (She) heads a business, but, being a farmer, must constantly adapt to the climate, market, technology and regulations."

There are some tricky bits to this speech as it relates to small-scale, organic farming... France is second to the US in terms of exporting global agricultural products. But this whole section below is interesting and I would adapt to say NEW Farmers, because people of all ages are very important!

"YOUNG FARMERS/SUPPORT/RETIREES’ PENSIONS (from Sarkozy's speech)

At the heart of this ambition lies a sine qua non. France is the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural products and leading exporter of processed agricultural products. We must bolster our farms and food sectors and encourage those who choose the fine career of farmer.

In the next eight years, 50% of your businesses are going to change hands! It’s a colossal challenge! We pledged a year ago to reform the support given to young farmers starting up. Today the pledges have been honoured and in 2009 we are going to increase start-up allowances, which will total €350 million a year, with the aim of helping 7,000 young farmers get established every year. Let’s be clear about this: a profession which doesn’t see young people joining it is a dying profession. The issue of the start-up allowance for young farmers is non-negotiable, because on it depends the future of farming in our country.

Concurrently, the question of upgrading small pensions and maintaining purchasing power for retired farmers and farm workers is crucial. If young people are to decide to go into farming, the situation of their elders must be settled fairly. (…) So as early as 2009, we have decided to increase the minimum vieillesse [minimum level of income required to live] by 6.9%. (…)"

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Okay, I've got a big post brewing with all sorts of goodies from February that I will finish writing soon. The shop has been really busy, so if we're a bit harried or don't respond as quick as usual, that's why - and thank you for keeping us so busy, it is great!!! Just spent 3 days at the Organicology conference, attended the Organic Seed Intensive and listened to Vandana Shiva speak, my heart and tummy were tingly with inspiration, she is a profoundly amazing woman.

Our earthen floor by Sukita,
(oiling a floor in the photo above), begins here March 14th, more on that in the next post : )

Flowers are blooming and I hope your heart is too.
Naomi

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