In 2015, Romain, a newcomer to farming starts his activity on a 30-hectare farm, which has just been cut out of a larger, consolidated farm thanks to a strong local mobilisation. With Romain, a farm is reborn in the village, a new family joins the village, jobs are created, and an independent business developed on this "small farm" with high added value!
Until the 1970s, the Eygageyres farm was a traditional mixed farming, dairy farm of about 30 hectares. Then, like most "small" farms at the time, a nearby farm absorbed to compose a farm of 70ha. The Eygagèyres land and building then became secondary to the whole farm system and were neglected over time. The land received minimal work: it was not anymore amended nor cultivated. It became fallows and gradually closed up due to scrub development and reforestation. The house remained inhabited for 30 years.
Strong local mobilisation to re-create the farm:
At the end of 2014, the whole farm was put for sale and entrusted to the regional branch of the Safer, the French agency regulating land market. The local municipality of Chadron, wanted the land to be used for a young farmer. It chose to support Romain, a newcomer who had been searching for land for 5 years! Graduated in 2009 as a farm manager, Romain was then about to finish his professional certificate in meat processing (which he passed in 2015). Since he graduated in 2009, and while searching for land, Romain worked as a truck driver. In 2014, he started a small-scale agricultural activity, under a temporary farmer’s statute*. He farmed 6 hectares of land lent to him under a precarious lease. For Romain, access to land has been a major problem: he is not an insider in the world of farming, he is not enough connected to receive relevant information about land availability early enough, he has no recognised experience ...
Early 2015, a town councillor of Chadron called upon Terre de liens to acquire the land managed by the SAFER to then rent it to Romain. Local mobilisation to acquire land then started around the municipality and Terre de liens, together with a number of people involved in local environmental and consumers’ organisations: SOS Loire Vivante, Meygalimenterre CSA, the local Organic Agriculture Association (Haute-Loire Bio), the network Ecologist Nature Environment 43...
Romain becomes the farmer
Terre de liens acquired 27,5 hectares of land, corresponding to the former Eygagères farm. The hectare is for sale at €3,253/ ha (incl. SAFER costs) which was a good price given the state of the farm after so many years of neglect. The remaining 40 hectares (with another farmhouse), which were the core of the former consolidated farm, were sold to enlarge 5 neighbouring farms. Some of these plots were sold at more than €6,000 per hectare (there is high pressure on land due to the nearby area of Protected Designation of Origin of lentils).
During summer 2015, Romain moved to Eygageyres farm to start his project of free-range pigs, sheep meat and suckler cows in organic farming, 100% processing and direct sale. The local Safer held on the land for one year, until Terre de liens raised the full amount needed for the purchase from 104 citizens, associations and businesses who invested to support the project.
Meanwhile, Romain worked intensely to restore the farm: he cleared and reopened landscapes around the house, along the paths and along the fields. In parallel, he started renovating the farmhouse and buildings which he had bought himself: house, processing workshops, sheds, and enclosures for free-range pigs. He also started cultivating to progress towards feed autonomy on the farm: everything has to be restarted!
In September 2016, Romain processed his meat for the first time. It was sold-out even before being ready; a number of citizens who had supported the project waited resolutely the first products of the farm! Eventually, Roman plans to process 80 pigs, 40 lambs (Blanche du Massif Central) and 5 calves (Aubrac breed) per year, as well as to have a farmworker working 75% full-time equivalent.
* In France, access to the farming profession is regulated. Non-farmers can practice agricultural activity on small areas under a special status (“cotisant solidaire”): they pay social security contributions but do not benefit from agricultural health insurance or pension (they have to depend on a separate social security system). They do not vote in farmers’ professional elections. They can sell to an intermediary (with an invoice) but, in some regions, are not allowed to sell to the public (e.g. on farmers’ markets). They may apply to land hold by the SAFER.
Further reading and updates:
https://www.terredeliens.org/les-eygageyres.html (in French)