The farm is called Famille Audema; indeed, I wanted to associate my name with my project when it was created in 1998. I started by buying 20 hectares, and have since expanded the farm over the years. It now covers 120 hectares in Vergèze and 40 hectares near Argelès.
In the Occitanie region, both parts of the farm benefit from a mild Mediterranean climate. In Vergèze, an area of several thousand hectares is registered with the Natura 2000 network (a set of protected areas aimed at preserving biodiversity), helping to preserve the biological diversity of species and habitats, which are mainly home to many bird species. The area around the farm is very agricultural even if the region remains touristy due to its proximity to the Mediterranean coast.
I went straight into organic farming. At the time, I was seen as being very unusual, but I am proud to have succeeded in this challenge, especially when I now see the damage conventional farming at the time has caused.
It is impossible to get bored with market gardening and the spring-summer and autumn-winter crops. In spring and summer, the main crops are melons, watermelons, courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes, new potatoes and young shoots. Then, during the autumn and winter period, we move on to spinach, celery, fennel, sweet potatoes and broccoli.
Irrigation is done via a drip system in order to give the exact amount of water needed and to release it as close as possible to the plants. I check the needs of the crops on a daily basis to irrigate accordingly. The water comes from a canal that supplies the whole region. It is an irrigation canal built in the 1960s by Philippe Lamour (after whom it is named) bringing water from the Rhône to the Gard and Hérault rivers.
The farm has a lot of hedges to promote biodiversity. We practice crop rotation, growing 2 years of market gardening and 2 years of cereals on each plot. This is part of a preventive pest control method. Organic Farming does not allow for many products to eradicate an established pest or disease. If this happens, we pull out the contaminated roots to prevent it from spreading.
We have a solar panel shed which allows us to produce more energy than we consume. Unfortunately, we don't have the device to use the energy produced directly. This system allows us to fund the construction of the shed.
The farm employs 90 people all year round and 120 seasonal workers. It is a large team divided between the management of the shop, the offices, the packing station and the crops. We employ people with disabilities in the station and are now looking for a partnership with an employer to help sustain these jobs.
The remains of unmarketable crops are donated to a neighbouring farm to feed the pigs. We also have a compost area that allows us to produce 2,000 tonnes of compost per year that is spread on the soil.