Access to land is the main problem for those in Brittany who want to practice clean agriculture and encourage the return of young people to the fields – so the organic and sustainable farmers from the Breton Terra Madre food communities told Carlo Petrini during his visit last week to Trégor, Côtes d’Armor and Lorient. Petrini’s reaction: “All I’ve seen since I got here is land as far as the eye can see. How is that possible?”
The farmers who met with Slow Food’s International President during farm visits and meetings with other farmers and Slow Food France representatives during the trip all had the same response: Cooperatives and big agroindustrial businesses have been buying up land for their unsustainable activities since the 1970s and now there is none left. In Brittany the intensive farming of Holstein cows and pigs has reached massive dimensions, seriously endangering not only local biodiversity but also the aquifers.
Petrini visited Françoise and René Chevalier at their farm in Maêl-Pestivien, where they raise some of the last remaining Blanc de l’Ouest pigs, a breed at risk of extinction that produces exceptional meat. Then it was to Bruno Prigent and Michelle Bagot, who raise Bretonne Pie Noir cows, another at-risk breed and a Slow Food Presidium. Farming these cattle helps protect the ecosystem of important wetlands along the Port Blanc coast, near Tregastel. Then it was on to Patrick and Christine André’s farm in Pédernec, where they raise Pie Noir and Armoricaine cattle, Blanc de l’Ouest pigs and native goat and sheep breeds. The trip finished in Lorient with meetings with local convivium representatives, natural oyster farmers (who will also be at Slow Fish) and growers of Lorient white cabbage, another Slow Food Presidium.
During the various meetings, Petrini also met with farmers of the Froment du Léon cattle breed (200 animals remaining), whose milk has been used for centuries to make excellent butter, and a number of young people active in food production, including farmers, fishermen, cheesemakers, brewers, cider producers and beekeepers who make honey with black bees (another threatened species) on the island of Ouessant.
All of these producers use extremely sustainable production systems and their finely attuned ecological sensitivity makes them true heroes in a region dominated by agroindustry. Thanks to them, connections with the historical convivia in Rennes and Lorient and the establishment of new convivia in the Trégor-Saint Brieuc, Brest and Cancal area, exciting new prospects are opening up for Slow Food in Brittany, representing a real driving force for a Slow Food renaissance throughout France.
These hopes were further bolstered by Petrini’s following visit to Paris. There, the young people of the Youth Food Movement demonstrated the potential of Slow Food in France with a huge convivial eat-in event. Like the Breton farmers, they are also working with their local convivia to bring many new food communities to the first Terra Madre Europe, to be held in 2012.
For more information on Slow Food Presidia in France: