by Lillie Elliott
Eric de Gouville is a second-generation farmer based in the Landes region of southwestern France. He took over the farm in 1998, the land where his father has been farming since 1969. Farming in France has changed drastically in the last 50 years, from learning more about the land and how technology can help the farm become more efficient. Eric explains how the changes impact him and his daily life.
Tell us more about the crops you grow?
We specialise in vegetable production, producing peas, green beans, carrots and sweetcorn. We also plant bulbs for Dutch farmers, we start them off and dig them up once they have grown. My daughter has now joined the farm and is primarily focused on the organic part of our production, which we are in the process of developing. She produces organic green beans, potatoes and for the first time this year, sweet corn. The idea is to develop this part of our production, which has a shorter route to market, we do not go through cooperatives and the usual wholesalers. We hope this will add value to our farm.
What is so special about the soil in Landes?
The soil on the farm consists mainly of black sand, this is typical of our region. This black sandy loam provides excellent growing conditions for plants as it has extremely good drainage properties. It is also enriched with the nutrients of leaves, roots, and all the other plant matter that decomposes from the previous growing season. This means that the soil is extremely high in nutrients and organic matter which will aid next seasons crop growing.
In the summer we have to irrigate crops to ensure they are getting enough water, in the winter the soil is drained so as not to become waterlogged.
Can you tell us about the changes in technology in the last 10 years?
The use of technology in agriculture has changed dramatically and there has been incredible progress since my father started farming to the present day. Technology is embedded in our daily tasks, from our tractors to our fertilizer spreaders. Irrigation systems are managed from our phones, to monitor the water levels and to start it and stop it. We have probes that monitor the moisture levels of the soil and determine whether we need to water, or not.
We have the technology to tell us the levels of fertilizer and water consumed by the plants. This allows us to monitor production and efficiency very closely.
Yield maps connected to our combine harvesters enable us to see the most profitable fields so we know exactly how much we harvested in a particular area: where we harvested more, where we harvested less. We can be more and more precise in terms of usage, whether it's fertilizer, seed or water. That allows us to ensure that we don't pollute land or waste products.
It is an incredibly interesting part of what we do and technology has become an important part of agriculture today.
Why are your boots important?
Boots are an important part of our equipment just like trousers or a jacket. We wear them throughout the winter because the ground is wet with dew in the morning and when it rains, we need to have dry feet. Above all, we need a pair of boots that are comfortable and fit well. When you are walking, you don’t want sore feet. In the winter, it’s cold, so your feet need to be well protected and warm. The Cérès boots are insulating so no cold feet in the winter. What’s important for us is that our feet are well-supported, and we are comfortable walking.