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In Pursuit of French Dessert… and an Understanding of French Agriculture

I am now in St. Gely Du Fesc, at my internship site, the Domaine De l’Oulivie. I will be discussing and relating my internship experience to the literature about agro-tourism, and detailing more of my university coursework on how French government plays a role in agriculture, but for this post, I am just going to concentrate on describing the olive farm, how gorgeous the farm is, and how absolutely delicious their products are. I do have to point out however, in a paper titled “America’s Changing Farmscape: A Study of Agricultural Tourism in Michigan,” agriculture tourism is in defined as “ incorporating visits to farms for purposes of on-site retail purchases, and education,” and the Domaine De l’Oulivie is certainly this and much more…

at the olive farm

The olive farm has been in the Vialla family for three generations, and has about 30 hectares of olive trees. They grow three main varieties that are well adapted to the hot dry summer weather, which I will detail later. They employ 8 people year round, and more during the harvest season. One of the best aspects of the farm is the fact that they uphold tradition and continue to demonstrate to their clients the “traditional” way of making olive oil through their museum. In fact, for my first weekend on the olive farm, I was lucky enough to be able to witness the spring open house, Le Printemps Des Oliviers, where a demonstration of making olive oil the “old school way” was available to tourists, the general public, and clients. Pictured below is the big granite wheel, powered by a Moulin (windmill) and a giant water wheel, which crushes the olives and their pits. This can then be made into tapenade, or further pressed into olive oil by being loaded into bags and pressed with a giant weight-see the picture below as well.Crunching the olives



The open house was an excellent way to introduce me to what agro-tourism is all about. In one farm visit, there is honestly something for everyone. After today, I can definitely understand why French farmers would choose to follow an agro-tourism path and focus on niche production of quality versus commodity production of quantity. Even though agro-tourism farms exist in the U.S., I’m surprised they are not as popular as they are here in France. It seems a fantastic way to combat increased costs of production with low revenue, and international competition.Oil Press

At the open house, there was a greeting station where visitors could be welcomed to the farm and get an introduction to the various programs. The museum was open as previously described. Local vineyards set up a wine tasting booth and there was also a craft booth selling terroir products, pictured below. The store selling all of the olive products was also open as well, with guided tastings of the various oils. I was actually able to guide a tasting for English speaking tourists who wanted to explore the very strong tasting olive oil varieties.Terroir Vendor

There was a scavenger hunt in a section of the olive grove for the kids, in addition to stations where they could color and paint with clay. My favorite part, of course, in addition to the food tent where people could purchase gourmet lunches, wine, espresso, and ice cream to eat at tables located in the olive groves, was the patissier (pastry chef) who gave demonstrations on making delicious olive products. Did I mention I’m in love with French desserts?Pastry Chef working with olive products



  1. Kari says:

    Chelsey! Toni and I are REALLY enjoying following your posts, hope it’s all going well. I think it’s safe to say, we’re in love with French desserts too! Great job!

  2. Lucille Schuchardt-DeSerio says:

    Hi Chelsey: A hello from Aunt Lucille who just heard an update tonight of the exciting time you are having in Southern France.
    Bring back all the info. you can on the great product produced there: Olive Oil!
    A special hello and hug from Aunt Lucille and Uncle Joe
    Father’s Day eve, having just seen Grandpa K., Mom and Dad…

  3. Lucille Schuchardt-DeSerio says:

    Hi Chelsey:
    Interesting Summer for you.
    Will look forward to hearing more from the trip upon your return.
    Love, Aunt Lucille

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