For me, apples and pears are a family affair! Hence the name of the enterprise, Maison Tamisier. I have been cultivating them since 1998, after inheriting them from my father and ultimately receiving them from my grandfather, who planted his first apple trees in 1951. Ever since 2000, I have been planting my first organic apple trees, followed by pear and plum trees. My brother Sylvain joined me in 2008 and took charge of the marketing. Breaking the mould of our production habits, a new project was born in 2017 with the planting of Pomegranate and Persimmon ("Kaki" or "sharon fruit") trees.
With some forty varieties, some very early and others very late, the harvest can be staggered. Plum harvesting starts about 15 June, and the time for pears comes round in mid-July, followed at the beginning of August by the apple picking, which will end in early December for the later varieties. Meanwhile, in October, the Kakis and Pomegranates are collected in several "sweeps".
During the harvest period, I walk the orchards every day. Every morning, we decide what to pick, plot by plot, tree by tree. In organic growing, the primary aim is to produce fruit that has real flavour. We analyse the sugar level, the size of the fruit, its firmness and its colour. But we select them, above all, with our taste buds!
Each year, when harvest time comes round, our faithful pickers return to us. Some have been coming since 1991. We support local employment and maintain strong ties with our seasonal workers, most of whom are housed on the estate during the five-month harvest period. After that, the tree pruning runs from 15 October to 15 March.
The orchards are located at the heart of the golden triangle of South-Eastern orchards, bounded by the Alpilles, the Luberon and Mont Ventoux. Here, the plain of the Durance spreads its clayey-silty soil in a sun-drenched climate, yielding fruit that is more flavoursome and sweeter. By drying out the orchards, the Mistral prevents certain diseases and helps to provide ideal growing conditions that have for centuries made this region one of the most favourable orchard areas in Europe.
In 2017, we decided to set up a methanation unit that takes in any rotten fruit left over from our operation, as well as organic waste from other companies in the region, and produces both electricity, which is sold back to EDF, and heat that enables us to grow exotic fruit in greenhouses. This facility and the 2,500-m² photovoltaic energy park give us total control of our energy footprint. The unit now operates as a positive installation, a structure that is sustainable. Our energy balance is positive: we produce more than we consume. That is something we are proud of.
Another important step before fruit is methanated is that any that does not meet the standards of our specifications (often too large or too small, split or twisted, but not rotten) is sold to industrial manufacturers and turned into stewed fruit, juice or other processed products.
Our concern for the environment can also be seen in our orchards. Animals and plants are my natural allies! You can often hear birds singing there. I set up shelters for them. Perched in a poplar, a nesting box for birds of prey houses the buzzards, hawks or owls that are fond of the voles that eat tree roots. Other shelters welcome the chickadees that feed on codling moths, Lepidopterans that lay their eggs inside fruit, or the bats that are fond of aphids. During the flowering season, I set up beehives to encourage pollination. As for the plant life, cypresses and poplars weaken the force of the Mistral. To shelter the auxiliary troops that feed on pests, I have also planted biodiversity hedges (alternating bay trees, hazels, Judas trees, black elderberries, etc.).
We guarantee perfect traceability for our products: the company is certified as Global Gap for the orchards and as IFS Food High Level for the packing station.
No pesticides have any contact with our fruit, either while it is growing or after it is picked. The compost and manure that are the only fertilisers I use come from local organic farmers and from by-products of our operation after processing by the methanator.
White nets resembling canopy bed curtains protect the fruit from attacks by codling moths. Finally, sensors placed on the tree trunks enable only the quantity of water that the plant needs to be taken from the collective irrigation channels by a drip-feed device, thus ensuring very good water distribution and limiting wastage. A tree needs on average nearly 300 mm of water a year, but this varies according to the year, the fruit variety and the soil quality of each plot.
In 2020, I pursued my ideas on excellence in our production method by converting our orchards to biodynamic agriculture and by gaining Demeter certification. It differs from organic farming by its dynamic aspect, which adds an energising dimension to organic methods. In practice, this approach consists of using specific "preparations" for the soil, plants and compost and of heeding lunar and planetary rhythms. Through these initiatives, biodynamic agriculture aims to generate a more resistant and more autonomous ecosystem.
We intend to go on producing healthy fruit while developing soil fertility and promoting a diverse, autonomous and sustainable environment.