The Grand Sauzens farm is a 42-hectare family farm which has been run organically for over 10 years. It is located in the north of the Gers, in the Lomagne region, where the clay-limestone soils are excellent and renowned for the cultivation of garlic.
We grow so-called "autumn" garlic varieties, which we plant in November or early December. In order to preserve the quality of the seeds, we remove the heads that will be used for planting by hand. It’s a long and tedious job, but we prefer it to mechanical dusting which can damage the cloves.
The carefully prepared cloves are planted at a depth of about 5cm, in soil properly prepared to accommodate them, and to offer the best possible conditions from the very start. Before planting, we apply organic fertiliser by hand to provide the phosphorus and potash that the garlic will need to take root properly.
With the arrival of fine weather, from February onwards, it is important to monitor and control the grassing of the plot. Regular weeding is necessary for the yield and sizes to be correct, especially in organic farming. In addition to mechanical weeding, which we limit as much as possible for the sake of soil (to avoid compaction) and environment preservation, we regularly go through the field to manually weed the crop - we call them "clearing chores", there can be up to 10 people in the field - family and friends: it is a very pleasant moment.
June is harvest time. Family and friends are again called upon, there are generally between 5 and 6 of us in the fields. We have a garlic plucking machine that we share with several other farmers. This machine pulls off the garlic scapes (with the stems) and binds them in bunches of about 15 to 20 heads.
Then, we load these bunches with a tractor and trailer. Each person has their purpose; from the people who load the bunches onto the trailer to the tractor driver who has to manage the speed according to the rhythm, and also those who remain on the trailer and arrange the bunches in order to load as many as possible. Finally, it is a matter of unloading these bunches and stacking them on wires under the sheds, so that the garlic finishes drying naturally.
1 to 2 months later, depending on the weather conditions, the garlic is ready to be peeled and steamed. Our oven was custom built, according to our specific requirements since it was important to us to be able to monitor both humidity and temperature. Indeed, these parameters are constantly adjusted according to the hydrometry and natural conditions of the raw material.
More specifically, we organise the peeled and carefully sorted heads on trays that we position in our oven - which contains up to 500kg of garlic per batch. We regulate the temperature and humidity, then we control the progress of the steaming every day using a trap door that allows us to access the batch without altering the steaming conditions. This enables us to constantly adjust the parameters in order to obtain fine and tasty black garlic, whose characteristics will be as stable as possible from one batch to the next. White garlic that does not meet our processing requirements will be sold in bulk on the farm, to resellers in open air or greengrocers.
The white garlic residues (stems) will be composted for our vegetable garden. The black garlic residues (peel) are stored and will be used very soon for a new product.
In addition to garlic, many crops are planted on the farm which is not irrigated: legumes, sunflowers, cereals. Three criteria are particularly important to us in the management of our farm: the variety of crops for a long rotation so as not to exhaust the soil, crops which are well-adapted to the climate of southwestern France and not very water-intensive (such as garlic), and finally, crops as close as possible to immediate human consumption (chickpeas, lentils, etc.).
In order to further improve biodiversity, promote pollination and diversify our production, a few beehives were set up in May, near the lake which is the focal point of our farm.