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Soil Conservation with RUSLE2

One of the main functions of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is to perserve the intergrety of the soil and reduce the amount of erosion taking place on agricultural land.  This is often accomplished through conservation practices such as no-till planting.  No-till planting is where the residue from the previous crop is left on the field after harvest and the second crop is planted through the residue.  This reduces the amount of disturbance of the top soil and reduces the possibility of erosion caused by rain water.  Here is an example of soybeans no-till planted in grain corn residue. 

This no-till planting of crops is often applied along the contour of the slope of the hills that are present in the field to reduce the amount of soil loss.  RUSLE2 is a formula developed that takes into account various pieces of information such as the type of soil in a field, the common degree of slope present, and the length of the slope where erosion is taking place or is likely to take place in the future.  This computer program allows you to project such items such as the type of crops, the rotation, and the planting technique, to reduce the amount soil loss.  In the next picture you can see us out measuring slopes in a no-till soybean field.  I think it was in the neighborhood of 100 degrees when this shot was taken.P1010025

I’ll admit that I did not understand the importance of these types of activities before my internship, but as I have been exposed to the consequences of poor land management, I realize the future of our crop land is at stake.  Agriculture and food production should be a top priority if we are to hope to feed the ever-increasing world population.  You can’t grow food on soil that is no longer there.  I have learned that what the NRCS and other soil conservation agencies do keep our agriculture land from beginning to look like the picture below and that is why I am thankful to have the opportunity to work with this agency this summer.

I would never have believed that conservation work had so many facets to it.  It has been an exciting and informative internship and I am looking forward to what I will learn in the few weeks that I have left.

Got Milk? Eh.

My bull calf friend and me

My bull calf friend and me

I’d like to start off this blogging series with a dirty joke.

Van Ryssel Dairy Farm Sign

Van Ryssel Dairy Farm Sign

What’s black, white, and bred over and over?  A Holstein dairy cow! Actually, the real dirty part of the joke is that they never stop pooping. For those of you with dairy experience this may have been your first answer, but before my internship started I’ll admit I may have answered with something lame like a penguin or perhaps a zebra.  However, after completing my first week at Van Ryssel Dairy farm it is plain to see that the first image that comes to mind is a barn full of Holsteins, without a doubt.  Located just outside of Oakbank, Manitoba, Canada Van Ryssel Dairy milks about 125 Holstein cows and farms 4000 acres.

I began my week by quickly becoming acquainted with the “girls” and getting a whorl wind, quick n’ dirty (literally and figuratively) walk through the barn chores.  There are so many little tricks to remember for things like maneuvering the mechanized straw cart at just the right angles to prevent it from crashing while bedding the stalls or remembering who gets fed what and how much during feeding-all of which has to be carefully timed between the two daily milking times. But, for the majority of my internship, I will be dealing with the heifer and calf management and treating sick cows when necessary.


The straw cart

Fortunately for me, my first day on the job was also the day for “herd health” checks, which occurs once every two weeks. As an aspiring pre-vet, it was an amazing experience to go around with my supervisor, Peter and the two local vets who conducted the checks. So much so, that I plan on dedicating an entire blog in the future about herd health.

One of the major issues the diary industry faces is lameness, particularly in the legs and hooves of the cows.  Basically, the happier the cow, the more milk it will produce. To prevent hoof infections from arising, the cows are run through a chute where I was shown how their hooves are trimmed and checked for ulcers, foot rot, and warts.  Those cows with any problems with their feet are treated appropriately, and in the case of bacterial infections they are often treated with an intramuscular injection of Depocillin.

The chute

The chute

In my first week, I was shown how to “dry off” a cow to stop it from continuing to milk.  This involves injecting OrbeSeal and medicated Dry-Clox into each of the four teats, followed by a final dip of iodine to prevent infection. At this time the feet or head of the developing fetus can be felt inside the cow through rectal palpation.

OrbeSeal for drying the cows off

OrbeSeal for drying the cows off

Occasionally, calves will get scours (a nasty diarrhea) that can be caused by a variety of reasons such as nutritional problems, bacteria (commonly E. coli), stress, or from something in the environment.  To treat them, two pills of Neo-Sulfalyte are administered orally for about a 100 lbs. calf for a few days.  Now, you have to realize that a calf is not going to simply swallow the pill on command, so a long rod is used place the pills down their throat.

In every case of treatment, it is extremely important to note and record the withdrawal time associated with each drug administered to each animal.  When given certain drugs, for example the Depocillin mentioned above, the milk or meat of that animal is not allowed to become food until the withdrawal time indicated on the label is surpassed.

Dairy cattle are also susceptible to becoming bloated, which is basically an accumulation of gas in their digestive tract that continues to build up and expand until the animal becomes noticeably larger in size in the mid section and clearly uncomfortable. It doesn’t happen often, but bloat can be caused from eating high grain diets.  This can be potentially fatal when not treated.  To alleviate the gas build up, we placed a long hollow tube in the heifer’s mouth and down the digestive tract.  Once the tube is placed all the way in, two people can apply pressure on either side of the animal and force the air out.  Within seconds, the air is removed and the heifer returns to normal size. How is that for a weight loss program!

Meet the "Girls"

Meet the "Girls"

Now when I get home from the dairy and open the fridge, I have a new appreciation for the time and energy that goes into the milk I’m pouring into my glass and I’ll confess, into the freezer as well, for those of you that are familiar with my love of ice cream.  So until next time, I’ll be upgrading my straw cart driving skills and getting my hands dirty.


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


Today, I was able to discuss the consumer trends of olive oil with everyone on the farm, and learn more about the clientele base of the farm.

Olive oil is experiencing a dramatic surge in popularity.  The farm has noticed that customers are now especially concerned about the health of the environment, and their own personal health. Olive oil has a good image, thanks to the heavily scrutinized Mediterranean diet, and is rich in polyphenols, Vitamin E, and monounsaturated fatty acids. I am indulging myself in the olive oil, as after all, I am somewhat near the prime location of deviation for Ancel Key’s Seven Countries study findings. The study found that serum cholesterol levels were strongly associated with coronary heart disease everywhere, but particularly, not in Southern Europe. Could this be the “healthful” fats of olive oil at work?

The farm hopes that by going organic, they will further project their image of being healthy for both the body and the environment.Violette de Montpellier olive

A paper by T. Michels (2006) identified six consumer profiles for olive oil, which I thought was very noteworthy. The paper describes the “the foodie, the aspirational foodie, the recipe reader, time poor foodie, time poor aspirationals and the uninterested.” Michels also points out that consumers do not really know about olive oil, or various ways to use it. I somewhat agree with this even though in the US, Rachel Ray and others are always proclaiming their love for Extra Virgin olive oil to the public masses.  Here, even though this is the south of France, and not the larger Spanish or Italian olive oil production areas, it is difficult to find a product which does not use olive oil.

A Tasting

In addition to consumer trends, it was interesting to learn the break-down of the sales on the farm; an incredible 70% is sold directly from the on-site shop. The shop is only 10 minutes away from Montpellier, a very large city, and attracts wealthy clientele since the product is of a very high quality and is labor intensive. Besides location, I think the store has such a good turnover because the whole experience is very personalized. As soon as a customer comes through the door, they are greeted with a “Bonjour!” and if desired, are educated about the various products of the farm, which includes a tasting. I have taken part of this process many times as both the taster and the informer, although I do have to admit, usually I am the taster.

Exportation is a new feature for the Domain, and results in 5% of sales. Apparently, it is harder to export to Asian markets since olive oil is not as widely used in their cuisine, but northern Europe and North America are turning out to be important customers. For example, we just prepared a large order to send out to Canada.

 The remaining 25% of sales results from restaurants and local boutiques that carry the Domain’s products. I have mentioned such boutiques when I discussed the “Maison de Producteurs” organization in the last post.Chef Eric Cellier

Along the lines of selling to restaurants, this week was definitely one of the highlights of my entire internship. I had a chance to visit Maison De La Lozere, a restaurant that the Domain de l’Oulivie almost exclusively supplies ( I was able to eat, see the kitchen, and interview the chef, Eric Cellier. This is definitely my favorite kind of learning experience!Maison De La Lozere

 A paper by Abel Duarte Alonso dealing with olives and tourism describes how when restaurants carry local olive products, it increases the interest of customers, and acts as an incentive to attract customers to the olive farm or to buy the farm’s products.  From my visit to the Maison De La Lozere, I understand how this can be true. The restaurant displays the various oils they use from the Domain in a gorgeous glass case for customers to see when they first enter the restaurant. Also, the chef has worked extensively with my boss at the farm to blend his own special oil using two varieties, and a special black bottle which was designed exclusively for the use of the restaurant. After select customers dine, the chef offers them little vials of the olive oil to take home as well. The oil is used in the classic style with vegetables, meat, and fish, but is also used to make marshmallows, and ice cream.special bottle design

Currently, Mr. Cellier is working on a project to blend chocolate, oil, and basil. Every dish I had was divine, and it was fantastic for me to see what a great market and promotional outlet the restaurant is for the farm. It also reinforced the fact that the quality of the product is crucial for its marketing niche. Olive oil may be made cheaply in Spain, and it may take a lot of work to produce the final product, as I have experienced, but in the end, when the plate arrives in front of you, it is definitely worth the price and extra effort…








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

I know I have previously mentioned the Common Agriculture Policy, known in France as the Politique Agricole Commune, when I initially underwent the French agriculture policy crash course at SupAgro University. However, now that I am on the olive farm and have discussed with my hosts the role of public policy on the daily financial operation of the farm, I have a definite renewed interest. If the thought of policy makes your eyes glaze over, I will try to intersperse pretty pictures from the farm throughout my policy spiel. Black Olives

Here’s a quick description of the PAC as I understand it… Originally, the PAC was focused on the objective of increasing food production since food security was a postwar issue. Farmers were given grants and subsidies for excess food produced. By the time the 1980’s rolled around however, the opposite, food surplus, was now the problem. The policy’s aim of creating food security worked too well. The French refer to it as being a “victim de son success.” Thanks to large reforms in 2003, grants are now given to farmers independently of amount produced to avoid the problem of a food surplus.Inside the store

There is still income from the government through subsidies, but for example, instead of subsidizing for quantity, grants come to farmers for aspects such as sustainability and food safety practices. The farmers are free to produce whatever is most profitable for them by following market demand. I’m almost done with the simplified policy lecture here, but I do have to point out my favorite aspect of the PAC in relation to France. I find it so interesting that out of the whole EU, France gets the most money from the PAC-a whopping 42.7% even though they do not contribute the most money to the European Common Budget. Obviously, this is a source of great debate for upcoming revisions to PAC, but it just goes to show how important agriculture is here in France.


The Domaine de l’Oulivie gets such grants from the national government, the EU, and the Region, especially since the farm is working on developing themselves as an organic farm. Still, because olive growing makes up only .1% of the agricultural products produced, it is not given financial priority in relation to the PAC budget. To combat this, growers have united under AFIDOL, Association Française Interprofessionnelle de l’Olive. It is a professional olive association which includes 30,000 growers, 30 confectioners that use olives in their products, and 18 olive nurseries. In addition to having power to petition for government funding, the association assists French olive growers, such as the Domain de l’Oulivie, by providing technical knowledge specific to Mediterranean olive growing.welcome to the farm label

It is fantastic that there are so many organizations to assist the smaller farmer in a financially viable manner here. The farm belongs to several organizations which help market their product. One example is the French Agriculture Board’s Bienvenue a la Ferme, which is a membership program to promote regional products. For only a small fee, the farm receives publicity such as road signs. The farm also markets their products with a Qualite Sud de France label which is an association created by the Languedoc-Roussillon Region. The products are described as “coming from the soul, heart, and taste buds.” Most importantly, the label creates a brand identity that links local products to a market, and is a mark of quality for the customer. The newest organization for the Domain de l’Oulivie is the Maison de Producteurs, which is a group of producers with boutiques that sell each other’s products.


I would now like to introduce my dessert of the moment… the Canelé. It is the official pastry, with a custard center, from Bordeaux containing egg, sugar, milk, rum, and vanilla. I was doing a little research on it and found out that back in 1663 there was a registered Guild of the Canauliers, or the people that make the Canelé. Unfortunately, these people did not belong to the Pastry Guild so they were not allowed to use milk and sugar in their confections. On March 3, 1755, the council in Versailles ruled that the Canauliers were allowed to use milk and sugar. In 1767 there was another ruling passed that said a city could have only 8 Canelé shops, so the profession was highly regarded. This ruling must have not been well enforced. Also, as a point of interest, the main rum flavoring that we all so enjoy now was not added until at least the 20th century…the Canelé

To Kenya and Back Again

Last week I took a short break from South Africa to travel to Kenya for a 8 days. There I worked for my non-profit, PALS:Partnership of African and Lansing Schools at Mbaka Oromo Primary School near Kisumu. I fixed erosion control channels I built last year and helped the school start a micro enterprise. I had received funding from the Center for Entrepreneurship at Cornell before I left to help the school develop its business. Last year, we installed a solar stand that provided 3 of the building at the school with sustainable electricity. When I went this time I worked with the teacher in charge of the library at the school to create a business plan, a large sign to advertise the services, and taught them how to budget the program. The school will now begin charging cell phones of the local community for a small fee and teaching computer lessons on the few computers they have at the school. The money generated from this will go towards a lunch program for the orphans at the school. When I wasn’t busy with that, I helped install some new gutters at the school to control the roof run-off that was contributing to their erosion problem. So it was a lot of work there but so amazing to be back in Kenya. When I wasn’t at the school I was staying with my host mother and eating ugali (basically corn meal and water cooked and hardened….I don’t really recommend it but it is a cultural experience in itself) and fresh tilapia from lake victoria (definitely recommend). All in all it as a great trip and I was able to accomplish a lot at the school. The kids and teachers there are so inspiring and I was so happy to get back there.

I am now back in South Africa. It is good to be back and working on my project. Prof. Janice Theis is also here now along with Christian Pulver, a masters student in CSS. They are focusing on biochar production. When we first got back to SA we went to the Johannesburg fresh produce market bright and early at 5am. It was really cool to see the ZZ2 tomatoes being sold at a HUGE open market. The price is set by the demand and changes as the time passes. Almost all sales are completed by 8am. It is a very different system than the US and it was a fascinating experience. Yesterday I gave my first big presentation. I went to Polokwane to the regional Dept. of Agriculture to present to some higher up Dept. of Ag officials my outreach proposal for a partnership with the dept. It went extremely well and the Dept. said we will meet again next week to present to the real top dog of the region! They were very interested in the partnership and so the project is really moving ahead.
Currently, Prof. Theis is working on editing my proposal and finalizing it. I found out I will now be giving my final presentation to the ZZ2 managers on July 16th so I am going to work on making that powerpoint once we finalize the program. SOO….life is good! It is a bit colder in South Africa now (much colder than Kenya!) but it is pleasant at night and we have had some bonfires at the lodge.
So now I am off to do some more editing

Oh…and GO NETHERLANDS! (There is still world cup fever in South Africa!)

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

Olive Trees Flowering

I have found my official favorite dessert of all time, and as promised, I am posting information on how the Domaine de l’Oulivie integrates value added tourism into their products to diversify themselves from competitors. Also, since I will be leaving before the olives are ripe, I was able to obtain pictures of the harvest from the Domaine de l’Oulivie, for everyone’s viewing pleasure. I had mentioned the trees flowering in previous blogs, so it is nice to now have images.

While at SupAgro University, we had a chance to meet with professor Fatina Fort to discuss her research on consumer perception of terroir products. Our discussion was fabulous for helping me understand value added strategies used by producers, some of which I am now witnessing at the Domaine de l’Oulivie.   She pointed out that in order for farms to succeed, there needs to be producer motivation, a market for the products, and an image that consumers can have about the producers or the region that is reflected in the product. She discussed strategies for producers such as quality and market segmentation, how to create added value, and what is needed to construct the “terroir/origin effect” on the consumer.

The Domaine de l’Oulivie adds value by integrating and inspiring tourism. They have a quaint shop so there is an outlet for direct selling from the producer, and they welcome the public with activities such as festivals, and tours of their museum.Ripe olives!

To further diversify from competitors, the Vialla brothers have planted heirloom  olive varieties collectively called “Grand Crus,” meaning that the cultivars are all local varieties, no more than 300 trees are planted per hectare, and no more than 4 liters of oil per tree is harvested. The older varieties are unique in the market and embody the region, a crucial element of success as discussed by professor Fort. For example, the Farigoule variety is olive oil blended with herbs that grow in the Garrigue, the local natural vegetation. According to the legend, olive oil producers “back in the day,” would add herbs of the Garrigue to the last pressing to sterilize or clean the pressing equipment. They would keep this last “inferior” herb tasting olive oil for themselves. The Domaine de l’Oulivie now routinely adds herbs to their oil even though the process is modernized and does not need the traditional herb sterilization.  So far, it is one of my favorite oils and I have even had the chance to bottle it!putting oil in bottles

The farm is also going organic, which means they can have an organic label AB, or in French called Agriculture Biologique, which will be on the products. There are some policy disputes about this as organic laws are becoming standardized across the EU. Despite this, this is the first year that the Domaine de l’Oulivie’s products will be carrying this label. This is a definite added value strategy since an organic label will open up the market and command higher prices.

I inquired about the major complications of the olive farm to learn more about this whole value-added tourism aspect, and apparently going organic is a definite hassle despite its eventual rewarding outcome. Since no herbicides are used, the farm employs two cows and two horses to mow and fertilize the olive groves. Also, the olive tree’s major enemy is the olive mouche, a fly that normally would be easily controlled by pesticides. Instead, the farm sprays the ripe olives with clay which turns the olives white so that the fly does not recognize the fruit as egg laying territory. Unfortunately, this clay comes off with the rain, what little rain they usually get here, and is more expensive.the mouche!

Finding new clients can be problematic, but the new organic label is projected to attract a new customer pool. I love France and feel that I am learning so much here from so many vantage points! In my next posts, I will discuss how agricultural policy makes this type of operation possible, olive oil consumption trends as they are observed by the Domaine de l’Oulivie, and any other adventures I have on the farm. In the meantime, feel free to savor this picture of deliciousness, it is chocolate MilleFeuille which translates to mean a thousand sheets since there are so many layers of heavenly fav. dessert!

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

Bonjour from a very busy week at the olive farm! I am now experiencing the Domaine De l’Oulivie savoir-faire, or the traditional “know how” of various olive product processes firsthand. Since I elaborated on the museum aspect of the farm in my last post, I think information on the modern equipment and processes will show a nice contrast. It depicts how here in France, they have the modern equipment, but also strong ties to the past and constant reminders of tradition.Lucques

We will be leaving in July, so I will not be able to witness the big gather, but from what I’ve learned so far, there is so much work here that is done manually!

packing olives

The green olives are picked by hand so that they do not bruise, and then half are left on the tree for three more months to turn black. They shake the branches with something that looks like an upside down weed whacker called “combs” so that the black olives fall to the ground onto tarps which are then gathered up and emptied into bins.   The olives, green or black and with their pits included, are put into the machine below to get ground up.

Crunching Machine The next machine further mixes, which is especially beneficial for tapenade and purees.Perfect for Puree

In the last machine pictured below, the oil and water is separated out of the mixture.


During July through September, the olive fruits continue to get bigger with sun and water. As of right now, it is possible to see tiny olives forming-so exciting! The flowering of the trees depends on the temperature, and usually lasts two weeks. Baby Olives!

We caught the tail end of this process when we first arrived in May. I could not believe how much pollen there was, but this is probably explained by the fact that the trees are wind pollinated, not insect pollinated.

We actually planted some baby olive trees, as shown below, but most of the trees on the estate are around fifty years old. planting baby olive trees

It was also very interesting for me to plant baby olive trees this week, because on the weekend, we ventured to the Pont du Gard, where there is an olive tree that dates back to 908 AD.

old olive tree!

I know this is not a travel blog, yet I cannot help but suggest that anyone who ventures to the south of France needs to see fireworks off of the Pont du Gard and try a Tielle, a traditional southern France seafood pie that I adore. Unfortunately, I just learned while attempting to research the appropriate spelling of this seafood pie that it is made with garlic, tomatoes and squid. I’ve been eating squid this whole time-agh!! Oh well, it’s delicious and I will probably still eat one every chance I get! learning how olive trees are grown

Anyway, back on topic… I love the aspect of tradition embodied here. The Domaine De l’Oulivie even manages to incorporate tradition into their marketing strategy to differentiate themselves by growing heirloom olive varieties, one specifically is called Violette de Montpellier which produces absolutely divine tasting, strong flavored, olive oil.  My next post will be dedicated to this interesting concept of how the farm integrates value added tourism to diversify their products and differentiate from competitors. 

So I wonder how many of the olive trees I planted will live to be 1000 years old?

Duck, Duck, Goose

     Off we go out into a marshy patch of woods where the vegetation is so thick at times that you can hardly walk and you constantly feel as if you are walking on a wet sponge.  Not the sort of spot you want to go on vacation but ducks and other waterfowl would consider it the Ritz.  Many tracts of land that were once havens for waterfowl have over the years been altered by agricultural practices.  These former wetlands are still beautiful but yet offer a less than desirable habitat for migrating waterfowl.


The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property.  The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial support to help landowners with their wetland restoration efforts.
     Our mission on this fine day was to accompany the biologist and make determinations regarding the best practices to implement which would restore this patch of woods into its original wildlife habitat.  We discussed the appropriate sites for construction of small water bodies (potholes) within this tract of land would attract migrating waterfowl.


As we slowly make our way through the thick underbrush we discover we are not alone.  We encounter signs that one of nature’s greatest architects (beaver) calls this wooded tract its home also.  The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is often thought of as the governmental agency primarily responsible for preventing land erosion but they are just as concerned with the protection of the natural habitat of wildlife which is the driving force behind visits into these deep dark jungles.


Workin’ During the World Cup

So it’s been a little while, but they have been keeping me busy! Last week I met with some local Dept. of Agriculture officials to suggest the extension program idea, the meeting went quite well and we are hoping to meet with higher officials either this week or in the coming week or two. I also met with local farmer Steven Mohale, which ZZ2 has been working with and he liked the idea of the program and the idea of possibly holding field days at his farm. He started out as a very small farmer and has been able to build up his production from about 3 hectares to 100. This is the kind of thing we hope to help other farmers do! Besides from a few other meetings I have been busy working hard on my strategic plan proposal, which I will be presenting on July 9th. I know I promised pictures, but my internet is too slow and won’t let me upload, so when I get back to the US I’ll make a post of pictures!

Culturally, it’s been crazy here! The World Cup is in full swing and I have never seen a country so excited. I went into town last Thursday and people were running around with South African flag capes and Vuvuzelas( Gosh those things are loud! (I’m definitely buying one) But, everyone here is in the spirit and although I cannot go to see a game, I am definitely getting into the spirit too and was excited to see the USA tie with England and am currently rooting for the Dutch team! It is great to see the country coming together like this. I also learned how to say how are you in the local south African language (not Afrikaans), it’s Le Kae (pronounced lay-chi) and “I’m good” is Ra gona pronounced (ray-ona: the g is pretty much silent). So it is cool to learn some of that aspects of South Africa too.

This week I am just working more on the proposal and possibly have a few more meetings with local farmers and stakeholders in the proposal. This Friday, though, I leave for a week long trip to Kenya. There, I will be visiting the school my family helped start a non-profit with and checking on the erosion control ditches I built there last year. I will also be installing new gutters and helping them start a cell phone charging business off of the solar energy that was installed last year. It should be a short exciting break and fun to see all my Kenyan friends from last year.

Well I better get back to work on my proposal, till next tim

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


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