Emerald days

We’re surrounded by emerald green these days; the fields are lush with new growth and autumn wildflowers. This is due to somewhat unusual weather from the east, which has brought Mediterranean humidity and rain for about a month. The sheep, which usually huddle tightly together under scanty trees as though afraid to be alone, were bravely roaming individuals today, munching grass which appears to grow as quickly as they gobble it up. The cows too, had traded their hay for the tender shoots of green that now surround them.

An article by Michael Pollan in the New York Times Sunday magazine discusses America’s farm industry, and it’s interesting to compare it to what surrounds us. There are no feed lots here, but you can buy grass-fed beef from the farmer up the road. In spring he will sell you lamb as well, and year-round we can buy chevre and brebi cheese, fresh eggs, and--of course--wine, from people only a kilometer or two away. Even brebi ice cream is available, if you have a taste for it.

This rather idyllic scene is changing though, as French farmers now must compete on a global scale, and often can’t. Another NYT article a few days ago describes a tomato farmer in Provence who must now compete with China to sell his produce to the local tomato-sauce factory. He can’t make a living doing that, and the kids don’t want to work the farm anyway, so he’s selling.

The wine growers too, are feeling the pinch, and all around us here we have seen vines being pulled out. There are lots of reasons for this, and sometimes new vines go in, but the long-term picture of increased competition and lowering prices will eventually leave only a few profitable vintners. I fear that along with the grapes and the tomato farm will gradually go the French way of life.