Farming has always played an essential role in the everyday life and development of our nature reserves and rural areas. Our ancient farming traditions are committed to respecting the environment, upholding the ancient know-how of our producers and promoting our natural resources. Back to basics.
The fertile plain of La Crau
Foin de Crau hay produced by farmers on the plain of La Crau has benefited from its very own Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée since 1997. Originating from natural meadows, it is very rich, balanced and nourishing, make it a perfect foodstuff for animals. Did you know that its characteristics vary according to when it is harvested? Hay cut in May is rich in grasses for horses and sheep, while the July crop is better suited to cows and goats! The Alpilles overflows with natural beauty and the Coussouls de Crau nature reserve is proof of the pudding! Enjoy exploring this gorgeous natural area forged by 6,000 years of interactions between nature, man and sheep. Treat yourself to a guided tour of this kingdom of flocks or enjoy a walk along the Peau de Meau nature trail. The Écomusée de la Crau ecomuseum retraces the story of our agro-pastoral economy and invites you to discover the human and natural heritage of La Crau.
Man, nature and herds
Head out to meet passionate goat breeders and nature lovers Claire and Paul in the Queyras Regional Nature Reserve. La Chèvrerie des Moulins invites visitors to enjoy a farm tour and meet with its 40 well-pampered recruits – a truly heart-warming experience. In the Écrins, savour delicious local produce stamped with the prestigious “Esprit Parc National” label. Don’t miss a visit to La Ferme des Gentillons sheep farm and the Ferme Auberge des Clarines, committed to upholding the quality of its green pastures. In spring, the grassy local meadows offer wonderful natural grazing grounds for herds before they head up to the mountain pastures in mid-June.
Have you heard of the Brigasque sheep? Hop over to the village of La Brigue in Mercantour National Park, where this sheep with its odd hook-shaped head is bred. Commonly-found in the Roya mountains, the breed was nearly driven to extinction by more productive varieties, before luckily being saved by a handful of passionate traditional breeders.
Extracting the power of flowers
In the Luberon, Artemisia Museum welcomes you for an immersive and interactive plunge into the history of perfumed, aromatic and medicinal plants grown on Lure mountain. The multisensory itinerary invites you on a dizzy voyage into the world of Haute Provence plants. Look, smell and touch… The Préalpes-d’Azur Regional Nature Reserve is renowned for its aromatic plants, used to produce essential oils. At Domaine de la Royrie in Grasse you can purchase Rosa Centifolia extracts straight from the producer. Take part in an aromatherapy workshop to learn all about this exceptional traditional art.
Respecting natural cycles and resources
First stop: the Pays’âmes farm in the Baronnies Provençales Regional Nature Reserve, for an introduction to permaculture: a sustainable farming method that consists of growing only local, seasonal produce. You can even enjoy a farm produce tasting session to learn about the importance of what’s in your plate – a great activity for all the family! How about a cheesemaking workshop at Ferme du coq à l’âne? This educational farm prides in traditional breeding and farming techniques and offers visitors a warm welcome.
After the countryside, it’s time to head to the Med! Port-Cros National Park and the National Mediterranean Botanical Conservatory have been fighting against intensive farming and its devastating effects on biodiversity since 1979. Opt for a guided tour of the orchard conservatory on Porquerolles island and its magnificent collection of heritage fruit trees including olives, figs and almonds. A world of a thousand perfumes…
The inimitable taste of the soil
Camargue rice, just like its birthplace, is an iconic national treasure. The Maison du Riz museum – a Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional establishment – teaches you all you’ve ever wanted to know about France’s biggest rice growing area. The museum’s founder, the Rozière family, has been welcoming visitors at its farm for 5 generations. Rice comes in many shapes and colours and the tour includes an introduction to various varieties, along with a demonstration of whitening techniques.
The Sainte-Baume Regional Nature Reserve is a temple of winegrowing. Head out to meet the region’s proud producers of Côtes de Provence and a host of other AOP (Protected Designation of Origin) and IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) wines. Wind up in style with the Verdon terroir and its mouth-watering Quinson organic wine. Vines were all but wiped out from Valensole plateau before finally being reintroduced in line with the strict criteria of the Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional label.