Our wooden farmhouse Mas Neuf de la Motte and our 60 hectares of rice fields (certified with the Ecocert seal) are located in the heart of the marshes of Saint-Gilles in le Gard.
This is the place that gave its name to the EARL Mas neuf de la Motte. We are in small Camargue gardoise, surrounded by wetlands and farmland. We are the smallest producers of the Camargue. Our approach helps to generate employment around us by having several service providers work for us to store, mill and pack the rice. An apprentice is also on contract with EARL and a future employee is in anticipation.
Today, 4 of us are actively working on the farm, my wife and I and Mathieu and his partner Sabrina since 2018.
I was a manager of a large neighbouring farm and when the opportunity arose to buy a property, at my 50th birthday in 2010, I embarked on this great adventure.
Since we farm 20 hectares of our rice fields every year, we rotate the rice cultivation from one year to the next. We cultivate a total of 60 hectares using crop rotation. In one year we sow rice in one plot and in the following two years we sow lucerne and other cereals (wheat of an old variety).
One of the special features of our cultivation is the "dry sowing" at the end of May. Afterwards we irrigate the fields with the water of the river Petit Rhône and at the end of June we release our 1,200 Mulard ducks, who immediately know what to do and therefore do not leave the rice fields. They separate the wheat from the chaff: they feed on the weeds and insects that typically surround the rice and do not touch the rice sprouts. In addition, the wading of the ducks whirls up the earth and supplies the water with oxygen. Their dung also serves as a natural fertilizer. Their presence enriches the biodiversity of the rice fields.
Rice used to be sown widely. Today, the seeds are sown in straight lines to enable the birds to swim. The ducks come from the south-west and conquer the rice fields every spring after sowing. The Mulard ducks cannot fly and have a great appetite.
The rice and ducks must grow together. In order to be able to work as efficiently as possible, the ducks come to the fields as chicks. The whole process is very complex. The rice growth, the release of the ducks, the weed germination and the water management must be precisely coordinated. The ducks pay no attention to the hard and silicon-rich leaves of the rice plant. They prefer weeds, which are removed naturally this way. In natural rice farming, they are cut back.
The leftovers of the harvest are used as well. We grind the rice straw to make an extra soil conditioner and the green or crushed grains are used for animal feed.
Regarding our facilities, we are building a shed made with photovoltaic panels.