Our farm is located in Limousin, between Brive and Limoges, among livestock farming lands. We are surrounded by meadows and woods. We live in one of the least inhabited regions of France, which is mainly rural. Our farm isn’t very industrial; we hire 12 seasonal workers for the harvest season, and 4 for the pruning. Our climate is ideal for fruit growing with warm days and fresh nights in the summer.
Our orchard is named after the place where we live: “Quinsac”. It may not be very original, but at least we can be found easily!
The property belonged to my husband’s family for a very long time (our house was built in 1766) and used to be a traditional polyculture livestock farm. Hervé’s great-grandparents used to breed sheep and cultivated cereals to feed them. It is my father in law, Bruno who decided to grow fruits and planted the first trees in 1979. He eventually planted an orchard of pear, apple and chestnut trees. Most of these trees are still there today. Our orchards thrive on the acidic soil and low altitude that make the trees vigorous and give the fruit the flavour of our land. Our plots of land are all around the farm, less than 2 kilometres away. We have a pond to collect rainwater which allows us to irrigate our trees using a micro-irrigation system in case of drought.
We practice traditional arboriculture. We do not weed our orchards in order to encourage the development of beneficial species. We install nests in our orchards to attract chickadees and bats. The chickadee is a formidable insect predator which preys on caterpillars, aphids, spiders, and codling moths. During the brooding season, it eats up to 500 insects per day!
We own a software that allows us to reproduce the flight of the codling moth (main pest of the chestnut) which lays eggs inside the chestnuts, considerably decreasing the quality of the fruit if no natural treatment is applied. This tool is connected to a forecast station that measures the hygrometry and the temperature. Thanks to the statistics it provides, we know in which weather conditions the moth will develop, hence we know when it will be around. We use essential oil based repellents to treat the trees against pests, and we introduce natural predators.
Our whole orchard is certified DEMETER. In biodynamic agriculture, we also rely on formulas that are made of plants (thistle, dandelion, horsetail…). We follow the biodynamic calendar with the application of horn manure on the soil in spring and of silica on the trees just after the flowering, to strengthen soil life and improve photosynthesis.
We do not produce renewable energy but we do have the highest compost heap of the whole commune. In fact, we gather the chestnuts when they fall to the ground but they are still inside their shell. We have a machine that shakes them to allow the fruit to separate from it. All the waste is accumulated in a big heap. We add to it all the waste from processing other fruits too. After two years and adding to it a few biodynamic preparations, we spread the compost on our plots to feed our trees. Nothing is wasted!
Thomas and Franck, our employees, accompany us in this adventure. Thomas mainly takes care of the apple part while Franck manages the chestnut orchard.
As our farm is small, we are able to sell all our production. The apples and pears are sold directly or transformed into juice. The fresh chestnuts are sold to intermediaries everyday during the harvest season and we transform what we can in order to sell it ourselves.