October 28, 2021

parinThe Future Farmers of France Are Tech Savvy, and Want Weekends Off

Ms. Muret Béguin, who proudly hails from a farming family and cultivates about 500 acres of cereal grains, said that French farming had already evolved toward greater ecological sustainability, but that the general public wasn’t aware.

Members of her group question the need for a campus like Hectar when, they say, state-certified agricultural schools that already teach farm management and technology are severely underfunded. The way to draw more people into agriculture, Ms. Muret Béguin added, is for consumers “to recognize and value the hard work farmers are already doing.”

Yet for people like Esther Hermouet, 31, who hails from a winegrowing family near Bordeaux, Hectar is answering a need that other agricultural institutions aren’t offering.

That afternoon, Ms. Hermouet mingled with a diverse group of young students, including an unemployed audiovisual producer, a Muslim entrepreneur and an artisanal cider maker.

Ms. Hermouet and her two siblings were on the verge of abandoning the vineyard run by their retiring parents, fearing that taking over would be more trouble than it was worth. Some of their neighbors had already seen their children leave the vineyards for easier jobs that didn’t require waking at the crack of dawn.

But she said her experience at Hectar had made her more optimistic that the vineyard could be made viable, both commercially and from a lifestyle perspective. She learned about business pitches, carbon capture credits to help maximize profit and soil management techniques to reduce climate change. There were suggestions about working smarter in fewer hours, for instance by using technology to identify only isolated vines that need treatment.

“If my brother, sister and I are going to work the earth, we want to have a proper life,” she said. “We want to find a new economic model and make the vineyard profitable — and also make it sustainable for the environment for decades to come.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/07/business/france-farming-tech.html

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