Christine and I are visiting Southern France for 3 days before I attend a conference in London. While here we visited two artisan cheese dairies and a farmers market in Pezeran. In the first photo, my nephew Phillipe is looking at a market booth filled with fresh local cheeses (all raw), smoked meats, pâtes, brain, liver, rabbit, and chicken. What struck me about the market was not just the variety of products available but the variety of animal parts for sale (e.g. brain, liver, and the pâtes). This ability to market the whole animal gives a significant boost in product profit margin to the farmers. Note the sophisticated marketing vehicle for the meats and cheese.
Out to the farms! We visited two very different small cheese dairies. One was small, well-kept, and featured goat cheeses and the other was a rambling cooperative with a variety of cheeses and workers. Both dairys impressed us, featuring tasty fresh cheeses. None of the cheeses were aged more than one month. When asked why they did not age them for longer, they said it was because the always sold out! One thing that was common to our own farm was escaping goats- we witnessed the alpine goats at one farm escaping into the Cherry Orchard (second photo).
Southern France features many of the aspects of farms and marketing farm products that we only dream about in the United States-- favorable laws governing the production of raw cheeses and butchering, customers willing to purchase every part of the animal, and a deeply embedded cultural interest in quality food. This enables an ongoing sustainable food culture.
Thanks to my sister Kristin and husband Jean and kids for hosting us while visiting and the Chez Lou Lou blog for advice on where to find good farms to visit.