As a member of Missouri’s Ag Leaders of Tomorrow (ALOT) our class capstones with an international trip to study agriculture. Over the next 13 days we’ll be visiting France, Belgium and England to tour farms, meet with agriculture officials and spend time learning about agriculture’s impact globally. I will be blogging throughout the trip to share my experience as an AdFarmer abroad!
Our first true day of touring France started in Toulouse in the southern part of the country, with a morning session at Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse (ENVT) one of the oldest vet schools in France. France has only four vet schools in the entire country and only ENVT focuses on livestock and large animal practices.
Similar to the problems we face in the U.S., the number of large animal practicioners is declining. Finding skilled people to work in remote areas is very difficult and ENVT addresses this head on. All of their students work for a month at a rural vet office and spend at least a week living on a farm to learn the issues facing their future clients.
Not only does ENVT train the next generation of vets, but they’re also a leading research facility, specializing in food safety and animal pharmaceuticals. They have partners in several other countries and work directly with pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Merial.
The second stop of the day was a purple garlic farm where we spoke to the farmer about the production of garlic and how he markets his crop.
Purple garlic takes about six months to grow and at least another two months to dry down about 20 percent of it’s mass before it is marketed. This particular producer sells his garlic each Wednesday at a local market that attracts both the general public and wholesale buyers.
Following the garlic farm was a trip to a cereals farm that grows organic grains that they transform from crop to end product. They produce semolina for pasta, or if you don’t want to make your own they provide ready to cook pasta produced on their farm. This operation is only 15 hectares, but as an organic operation this is all they can handle. The farmer here works on his own marketing and sells all of his own crops and products. Much like in the North America, organic is a growing movement at about 6 percent of production and consumers also pay more for organic products.
With a lunch of products provided by the local organic producers under our belts we boarded the bus for a several hour drive to Bordeaux to tour Chateau La Louviere, a winery, and meet with the owner and her marketing team.
La Louviere grounds are home to the first grape vines in Bordeaux, having been in production since the 15th century. The family owns six chateaus in France, as well as wineries and vineyards in Australia, Argentina and Chile. The French estates grow enough grapes to produce 4 million bottles of wine per year.
Our packed day wound down with a late dinner with the winery owner and the head winemaker. Tomorrow’s activities include foie gras production, a dairy and an organic bakery, so check back then for an update!