La France de ferme en ferme
When we first arrived in France I had big troubles finding plant nurseries or garden centres around Grenoble or in the Isere region. I have told you this before. I was therefore very excited when I finally found a few nurseries, and I was even happier when I found a place where I could buy compost. It’s not that there aren’t nurseries or garden centres, but the way information reaches you in France is totally different from I was used to. As the years pass by, my local knowledge is growing and I’m slowly figuring and finding things out. I’m also realising that not all is about language (or the lack of it), but also about habits and customs.
One of the things we learned, is that information is often spread via flyers. In the Netherlands I rarely looked at flyers when visiting the postoffice, the grocery store or a museum. Here we have learned to keep our eyes wide open and pick up flyers here and there. This is also how we found the event I want to talk about today. I believe Eduard took this specific flyer along from somewhere (for me). I don’t know where actually. The flyer introduced us to De ferme en ferme. And so on the 26th of April last year, we didn’t know what to do – the weather was a bit unstable – and somehow this flyer came up from our tall pile of flyers that we own. We decided to give it a try, and ended up having a beautiful day.
As this event is held yearly, I wanted to share it here with you. You might live in France (this event is held all over the country), and if you don’t, it might inspire you to find out if there is something like this going on in your neighbourhood.
The event is a two-day event and allows you to visit farms all around the country on a specific route. We visited three plant nurseries of which two were very interesting. But there were also meat- and milk producing farms on the route and also other type of farms obviously. It’s up to you to decide what kind of farm you want to visit and learn more about. You also choose the region you want to visit. We visited the Drome area as we lived close to that area.
It was really a good learning experience for me, visiting those farms. The farm owners or their volunteers explained a lot about their working progress, how they sell and ship online, about rules and regulations and costs (of special greenhouses, sowing machines) and such. As I’m dreaming of becoming a small farm keeper myself, all this information was eye-opening. But it was not only informative, it was really an enjoyable experience to be surrounded by so many baby plants. It makes you greedy. Let me tell you a thing or two about the two farms that impressed me most.
First we visited Arom’antique. They call themselves an pépinière atypique. As I’m not an expert on plant nurseries I take their word on that. It was a small nursery with three big greenhouses that were filled with – I don’t know – thousands of different types of herbs. You might have guessed already, but they specialise in herbs. After being allowed to walk around and explore everything they had, we were grouped together and got an introduction by Laurent (the farmer). He explained how they grew the plants and how they sold them online, etc etc. After that we nosed around a bit more and at the exit we bought a crate full of all kinds of herbs.
My herb spiral came to life after our visit to this nursery actually. I brought so many herbs home, that I had to create a space for it in the garden. You can see how all the herbs grew happily here: may & june. I believe many, or all the herbs are still alive after our move this winter. So I can only assume that the quality of the plants was really good.
Les plants de Céline
The second nursery we visited was Les plants de Céline. I believe Céline was the young owner of the farm (yay! for female farmers). We saw her briefly as she welcomed all the guests. At our arrival we were taken into groups around the two greenhouses. This farm was also small. Maybe even smaller than the first one. I’m not sure anymore, but there were two greenhouses I believe. New greenhouses though. Very interesting ones as well, they were full automatic and had a more comfortable feel to them than the classic ones. You didn’t feel closed off from the outdoors when being inside. I loved that, and I loved hearing about how they worked. We were also shown how they sow and repot plants. Look at how small those compartments for the tomatoes are on the images below. Amazing right?
But what did they grow? This farm also grew herbs, but wasn’t specialised in it. The choice was smaller than the first farm. They did grow tomatoes, aubergines and other typical potager-garden plants. I couldn’t resist buying some more plants here as well as you might understand.
I ended up with this humble batch of plants, which I bought from the two farms. Not too much I think. I could have bought much more. As most of them are still alive as I said, I have a happy memory of that day, that I can recall every time I see the plants.
So, don’t forget, if you are in France at the end of April, visit the open farms in your neighbourhood. This year (2016) the weekend is planned on 23 & 24 April!