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In France, as in the United States, there are very strict standards that describe a product that is officially labeled “organic.” In the broad sense, the goal of organic farming is to protect our natural resources while conserving biodiversity. It takes a minimum of two years for a conventional farm to undergo a conversion to growing organic produce.
Organic farming functions by respecting natural systems and cycles, without the use of genetically modified organisms called GMO’s and only using seeds produced organically. These farms are highly regulated and subject to regular inspections. Organic also signifies no human sewage as fertilizer, nor pesticides or antibiotics. As an example, in the United States the antibiotic Streptomycin has been used on pears, apples, nectarines, peaches and possibly other fruits and vegetables.
According to Plat Pathology at the University of Wisconsin, in 1999 approximately 21,400 pounds of streptomycin and 21,700 pounds of oxytetracycline were applied to fruit trees in the major tree-fruit producing states. This was extended to use in organics in the US but not in Europe. This proved to be one of the stumbling blocks to confirmation of the Organic Trade Agreement between the US and the EU and under this new partnership any participating growers must verify that through certification that no antibiotics were used during production for any reason.
Which ever side of the Atlantic you happen to reside, organic farming is not easy and faces many challenges. There are the day to day difficulties of growing crops to the threat from large corporations that have for years attempted to eliminate their existence.
I have been using and encouraging my friends to switch to organic products for years. This 4th of July I had the pleasure of crossing paths with Claire Barczewski and Jean-Camille Cordes in Lémeré, France. I met them at a party in Lémeré given by American friends to celebrate the 4th of July. Claire and Jean-Camille are a delightful couple that gave up lucrative, dynamic careers in Paris to start an organic farm. Claire had been in the financial world of commodities and Jean-Camille in the field of chemical engineering. They are now the proud owners of the Ferme de la Corronnerie in 37120 Lémeré. They most assuredly have their work cut out for them, but there is no lack of excitement, joy and optimism for this new phase of their lives.
I was the lucky recipient of a tour of their farm which functions according to the principals of AMAP, or Association pour le Maintien d’une Agriculture Paysanne. One of the stated goals of this organization is to allow consumers to buy freshly grown, high quality food products at a fair price while knowing the origin and the manner in which the food had been grown.
They have established a popular program that is not new to France or to the United States but one that I had only recently become acquainted with. One signs up for weekly delivery (or pick up) of wholesome organic fresh fruits and vegetables. Enjoying freshly picked, seasonal produce is the next best thing to having your own garden. At the same time, you are introduced to a variety of vegetables usually not offered in the large super markets.
Jean-Camille and Claire provide 23 distributions from the 10th of July through the 20th of December. One can choose their date of distribution for Tuesday or Thursday.
In addition to the traditional field plantings, their working farm includes hot house plantings and is home to numerous box hives offering honey to their clients. The hives are worked by Henry Romain under the name of “Les Abeilles de Papae”. Neighboring farms contribute cheese and milk to their operation as well as organic wines. They service their surrounding area of Lémeré which is located in the Loire Valley just a couple of hours outside of Paris.
Jean-Camille and Claire have made great strides in establishing this small enterprise. The work ahead of them is significant but I can easily see the pleasure of working the land and adhering to the basic principals of traditional agriculture while eliminating chemicals and toxins. I take my hat off to them for taking that giant step by providing a higher quality of life and health to their neighbors and the planet.
If you are in the Loire Valley near Tours consider staying at La Noblaye, a chateau from the 16th and 17th century. It is a chambres d’hôtes en touraine and is run by a lovely couple, Arlette et Alain Marqueton. La Ferme de la Corronnerie is across the street from La Noblaye. Claire and Jean-Camille will be happy to share their love of the land and introduce you to the advantages of sustainable farming. In addition, you will be in a perfect location to explore that part of the Loire Valley.
La Corronnerie, 37120 Lémeré, phone 02 47 95 60 93
Chateau de la Noblay, 37120 Lémeré, phone 02 47 95 77 52