Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ah, those Manifestations!

Sorry for the quality of the photos -- I only had my cell phone with me, so, they are what they are. But perhaps Nathalie at Avignon in Photos will have some better shots soon. (see my list of blogs to the right).

Les Jeunes Agriculteurs are angry, scared, and desperate! And so, let us dump carrots, beets, grape must and more all over the main roads around Avignon. And let us block the two bridges coming into and exiting Avignon, and let us do this during rush hour on a Friday night! And we will... what? Wreak havoc and put poor women like myself (and thousands upon thousands of other people) in a car for four and a half hours covering no more than 40 km? In the vain attempt to go from home to school (normally 15 minutes -- I left at 3:45 and arrived at 4:30), from school to the train station (I've two kids to put on the train on Friday evening, remember?) to which we arrived at 6:15 -- a full hour and and fifteen minutes after the departure of Gaetan's train. From which we then zoomed through town (amazing) to my bridge, which we were dissuaded to attempt crossing by the friendly policemen as it was blocked by trucks and more. At which point I then headed south to another bridge across the Rhône, -- it took another hour to get out of Avignon. And we arrived home at the tender hour of 8pm. And to think, I thought I'd be able to have a nice shower quietly by myself at 5pm and prepare for the weekend ... silly me.

Arghghghgh. OK, life is pretty rough for anyone who's farming. Here, as in the US, if you try to sell in bulk to the major buyers, you are offered less than it cost you to produce your wares. So, there is a system of primes which pay farmers for what their farms used to produce at rates that were set a few years back. And, these primes don't change, as the farmer is encouraged to produce less. To the point at which these primes have no longer any connection to production. They are designed to keep farmers afloat while maintaining the sanctity of a buyers' market that refuses to pay decent rates for produce farmed locally.

Now, if you go organic, and you sell directly to the consumer as much as possible (through the markets, monthly crates, etc.,) you're far better off. Nevertheless, it is still a difficult life, and yet one which would like to choose.

Another barrier to setting up keep as a farmer is acquiring the land to do so -- good farming land is more often sold at high rates to developpers than at affordable rates to farmers. Haven't we heard that somewhere before? It is the same world-round I believe, be in the Ohio River Valley or ...

However, rarely in the US do farmers have the chutzpah to gather together and block a major city for an entire afternoon. So, cultural moment for all: my kids, myself ... and a time to hear tales of Gaetan's father's dumping goat manure in a local McDonalds way back when. I laughed with my boys in the car, stretched my legs when possible, took stock of the apples, carrots and various mashed and rotten fruit on the street, rolled through puddles of car-crushed refuse, eyed the many riot police hanging out on street corners, and when possible, made a brief stop for cookies and iced tea and other yummies to tide over the empty stomachs of my boys during the last stretch home. All's well that ends well. But aieeeee, I would have preferred to have Spain or the Alps or Italy at the end of my 4 1/2 hour drive! Not moving, barely inching along for hours at end is not fun, no matter that I maintained an optimistic outlook and the kids sang along to FUN radio.

Now myself, I was more in the mood for "Do you remember..." the strikes of the winter of 95? Do you remember walking or biking or roller blading or hitch-hiking all over Paris? in the cold winds of winter? (my legs have never since been as lovely...) Do you remember, missing your plane due to trucks blocking the highway exits? But be reassured, when this happens, the tickets are changed no questions asked. Ah yes, free speach and the right to demonstrate. T'is wonderful non?


The Sabbatical Chef said...

Just got to love the French, n'est-ce pas? In the US, we'd never band together and do that. And I do remember the Parisians transport strikes and trying to my students from one point to another... I walk everywhere except up to Montmartre.
Any chance you'd put a link to my blog, ma chère amie?

Madeleine Vedel said...

Ah yes. I love walking -- we could have gotten home from school in half the time it took to sit in the car! all 15 kilometers of it...

I've put your link my dear! and I'll do some more reading and following of it. I've been lax, but then again, 6 kids, jump-starting the business.... bisous!