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NewsletterSeptember 2003

La France Profonde

One of the many benefits of marrying a French woman, who grew up on a farm, is we visit the family farm. Her siblings are farmers. Hence I visit La France Profonde often. The literal translation of La France Profonde is deep France. A more meaningful translation for an American would be "The Heartland." La France Profonde is more or less everything outside of Paris and other large cities.
The concept of La France Profonde is it represents the roots of France. Agriculture and the land connect people to nature and its rhythms, life freed from the alarm clock and living in the city. The part of La France Profonde that we visit almost monthly and where I am writing this is in Southern Burgundy, near Tournus. The farm, Ouxy, pronounced "ou-she" is the birthplace of my father in law. He grew up on the farm, consisting of a stone farmhouse, a large stone barn, and another building, that serves as a barn on the lower level and on the upper our sleeping quarters.
Every French person has a relative living in La France Profonde. Visits are made from time to time. Nowadays few French can live in La France Profonde, although most vacation there.

Drought/Heat Wave

Last month's newsletter talked about the worst drought/heat wave of the last fifty years. One of the sectors suffering the most damage is agriculture. Three in laws working in this sector are experiencing difficulties. Fortunately their problems are not as severe as many; all will receive state aid if needed.
The first in law, Dominque, has a herd of about 50 goats and is losing 1,500 euros a month. Why? The dry hot weather means his pastures have no grass causing the goats to produce little milk. Normally a goat in the summer will produce 2 liters of milk, at present they are producing only half a liter a day, of course the goats still need to eat, therefore Dominique must purchase feed. This is a costly expenditure and further reduces revenue.
Next, my brother in law Thierry also has much the same problem: his pastures have little grass. To see an example of this years pastures and how dry they are compared to a normal year click here. He is a little better off he raises cattle and sheep for meat. This means even if his animals are not eating enough food, that weight can be made up when the animals return to their regular diet. As of this writing Thierry has not had to use winter stock to feed the animals. Others farmers have.
Last there is Jean-Guy, recently married to my wife's niece. (More on the wedding next month.) Jean-Guy raises cattle and chickens. The chickens are a specialty known as poulets de Bresse (Bresse Chicken). They are range chickens only fed on maize and dairy products. Chickens raised industrially are dying in the heat wave engulfing France, some producers losing up to one hundred chickens a day. Jean-Guy has not suffered any lost chickens. The chickens are not locked in a building but given space to move. This thankfully has meant no deaths.

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