Domaine l’Hermiton is the name we have decided to take to pay tribute to the ancient names of the crop plots located around the farm. Our farm is in Haut-Diois, a mountainous valley in the French Alps, protected and historically significant in the Drôme department at the crossroads between Valence, Grenoble and Gap.
The Diois valley is a source of highly diversified production. We grow many products such as ancient wheat varieties, Petit Épeautre de Haute Provence PGI, hemp, brewing hops for our local brewers, walnuts and cucurbits (Pumpkin, Butternut, Muscade de Provence, Melon and Watermelon). The valley is home to other agriculture such as the breeding of sheep and lambs, goats and cows, as well as lavender, garlic, and vines which provide the famous sparkling wine “Clairette de Die” AOC (Controlled Designation of Origin).
The valley is crossed by the Drôme river, which has its source in our mountains. It is bordered by many forests and plateaus which provide good grazing for livestock, the proliferation of a healthy ecosystem, and numerous hiking trails for walkers and mountain bikers to enjoy.
The Diois valley is quite wild and very agricultural. It is inhabited by slightly over 10,000 inhabitants for 50 communes (half of whom live in Die, sub-prefecture of Drôme), with an average population density of about 9 people/km².
Our farm is the 5th generation of farmers. My father Henri settled on the farm in the 1980s, and in 2020 I returned to the region to settle there and continue the activity with new farming ideas and new projects following different experiences and trips.
Our crops require more or less watering depending on the type. We can count on water from the Drôme to help us pump and sprinkle the crops at the best time of day to avoid too much loss by evaporation or stressing the plants with a temperature shock. New investments are underway on the hop plot to promote drip irrigation and thereby reduce the pressure from fungal diseases.
Organic farming is a major asset in our region. We bear the name of Biovallée because most of them have been converted for many years, greatly favouring a diverse and varied ecosystem from the land to the insects and wildlife. All our plots have been organic farming-certified for 25 years. Henri and many farmers were also the pioneers at the time for this new growing method, because it required relearning certain things including manual and mechanical weeding, or the use of natural products rather than pesticides to protect plants from diseases or pests. A new photovoltaic hangar project should see the light of day in the coming months, and will give the business new impetus to always better process products on-site and prepare your orders.
Only two people are 100% active in the operation. Henri will gradually stop over the next few years, though he will always stay around to lend a hand. Many family members lend valuable help during very active periods. At harvest time, we work with pickers who generally live in the valley, most often on a staggered schedule to avoid the end-of-summer heat. To prepare orders and parcels for local organic food stores, wholesalers and individuals, we then work in the storage sheds on the farm with a smaller team of around four people. We sort, prepare and package the products for future shipments. This allows us to retain the energy needed to prepare for the next season and all the commercial management of orders and deliveries.
The products sent are harvested when optimally ripe in order to combine maximum taste quality and better preservation.
The remains of unsold crops or those with defects are reused in different ways: they can be used to feed the few pigs we have on the farm, while certain products such as squash are sent to processors to be crushed, transformed into soup or sorted to collect the seeds that will be used for the next few seasons. We compost all of our pruning and trimming residues, and collect organically farmed goat and chicken manure from our neighbouring breeders to fertilise our land. This is supplemented by other composted vegetable matter such as malt spent from our local breweries and pruning leftovers delivered by the Diois commune community.