“A graduate of Sciences Po then a consultant, I became a pig farmer”

Rewrite this contentPosted Jan 17, 2023, 7:01 AMUpdated on Jan 17, 2023 at 9:54 am“March 2016. I do what is called wwoofing on a farm in the Gers belonging to an English couple. The principle is simple: in exchange for a helping hand, I am housed and fed. I take care of free-range organic black pigs. The daily life pleases me so much that I realize that this is what, ultimately, I want to do with my life. Far from the daily life that I led a few months earlier, and from the path that I had imagined myself following…After a master’s degree in public affairs at Sciences Po Paris, I joined a small consulting firm in London. My job as a consultant was very stimulating: we worked in particular on economic development issues in African, Pacific and Caribbean countries for the European Commission and the British government. But after a year and a half of activity, I perceived the limits. I could clearly see that the impact reports that we wrote were only read by a few people. Finally, my job did not seem very concrete and a little disconnected from the reality on the ground.Health issues accelerated my thinking. In 2015, doctors recommended me to go green, in particular to get away from pollution. That’s what I do, throwing myself into wwoofing. Until this experience on a farm in the Gers, which convinced me to take courses for a year, in order to pass my professional certificate in charge of agricultural exploitation (BPREA).Write a book with an ex-fellow from Sciences PoIn 2018, once I graduated, I started my agricultural activity. I settled on a collective farm initiated by a young farmer on his mother’s land, 10 km from Auch, west of Toulouse. Son of breeders, he wants to change his model to switch to extensive agriculture and raise organic goats and sheep. Part of the land is rented to organic market gardeners, another to a producer of plant-based drinks, and a plot belongs to me.Huts for animals, fences, planting trees, buying pigs, equipment for the market… My agricultural installation is financed up to 70% by bank loans; the rest through agricultural subsidies. My personal treasury only allows me to finance a yurt installed on the farm, in which I live for the first two years.Since then, I give birth to the pigs, I raise them, I fatten them, and once slaughtered, I cut them up, process them and take care of direct sales. I tell about this daily life in the book “Rather Nourrir: L’appel d’une éleveuse”*, released in September 2022, and which I co-wrote with Clément, a former classmate from Sciences Po. established in a self-sufficient collective farm in Béarn. Our idea: to be honest about the reality of this return to the land, about the joys and the hardships, and to question the place of animals and livestock in the world of tomorrow, where we will have to feed more and more world despite finite natural and fossil resources.A constant mental loadThere are a lot of things I wish I had known before I started. Especially on the harsh winters, where you have no choice but to be outside. And then, fatigue, it’s really hard to get used to it. There are periods of enormous work peaks. For example, when I take my pigs to the slaughterhouse, which I have to do the cutting, then the markets: I am rinsed after that, it takes me days to recover. I had underestimated this physical wear and tear.The breeder processes the carcasses herself in a cooperative cutting workshop shared with other breeders.Clement OsePerhaps the most difficult thing is this enormous and constant mental load. Working with the living always has surprises in store… A suffering animal, which dies, all of this can upset a schedule. And then, you have to deal with climatic hazards, such as drought.The year 2022 has been particularly difficult. The rising cost of energy and raw materials, especially the grain I used to feed my pigs, weighs heavily. Reason why I had to review my business model. From now on, I raise fewer pigs and these have regained their role as “trash” on farms: they are now fed thanks to waste from market gardeners, unsold products from Biocoop… This allows me to reduce costs, and to keep a reasonable selling price.The most fulfilling: births and the relationship with customersDespite the difficulties, this job makes me happy. What I prefer ? The birth of animals and the bond I weave with sows. They all have a first name, their character and follow me by voice. I have the impression that we cooperate, that they trust me. It’s quite magical!What I also like very much is going to the market, offering my products to customers and seeing the immense recognition they have for my work. I chose to raise a local and rustic breed, with a very particular taste. Old people tell me: “Thank you for raising this animal, we know it’s difficult, but we find the taste of our childhood that we had lost. »Noémie Calais sells certified organic meat from the animals she raises on the markets.Clement OseIn 2021, my activity allowed me to generate between 300 and 600 euros per month. When I earned less than 550 euros, I had to supplement with the RSA. It is not pleasant at all to have to depend on this… But this is due to costly investments, an increase in the price of land over the years, a cyclical increase in the cost of raw materials, and the impossibility of increasing the selling price too much.In the future, I want to work part-time on the farm, and reserve the rest of my time for intellectual activities. Continue to write, and why not teach, to give back a place to agricultural and agronomic issues in school curricula. It is an unloved and yet essential subject for thinking about our food autonomy, and the environmental and social consequences of our societal choices. We eat three times a day, the leverage effect of food is enormous!A vibrant social and cultural lifeCountry life appeals to me. After two years spent in a yurt installed on the farm, I moved to a shared apartment in Auch, where I live with a whole group of friends. It’s very joyful and it allows you to cut with the farm.Here, we are not in the anonymity of big cities. We know when we go out that we will always come across the same people, but that creates a climate of trust. It feels like a kind of big family.My meager income allows me to live decently. It must be said that I have very low expenses and needs. My food, for example, comes mainly from the farm.Our farms host festivals, concerts, theatres… Our accommodations, spacious and with outdoor spaces, allow us to receive people at home rather than having to go out to the restaurant or bar. All this offers us an abundant social and cultural life, less expensive than in Paris. Finally, I replaced pecuniary wealth with human wealth, by forging real bonds of friendship with other farmers, people from the culture, craftsmen.Wondering about the death of animalsAs I changed my life, I also had to deal with conversations with vegetarian and vegan friends who didn’t understand that animals could be raised to be killed. The death of animals is the red thread of my book and a constant daily concern. What right to kill? Why give birth to kill?This year I reduced my herd because I could no longer consider giving birth to animals for the simple purpose of killing them. I reduced it so that the animals I keep find an agronomic role on the farm: they eat (and this is the historical role of the pig) the waste of our collective, which we humans cannot eat. Their death becomes much rarer, and becomes the corollary of their agronomic role and no longer the sole purpose of their life.I am convinced that animals are necessary to fertilize our soils, especially market gardening land that is very greedy in nitrogen and potassium. However, I am in favor of eating as little meat as possible, and when this is the case, of consuming meat from farms where the breeder gives a name to his animals, and where he dares to look death in the face. . Besides, if it were possible, I would like to be able to slaughter my pigs myself. But for now, the law only authorizes it for experiments. »To note* “Rather Nourish”, by Noémie Calais and Clément Osé. Released in September 2022, Tana Editions, 256 pages, 18.90 euros. and and more content about “A graduate of Sciences Po then a consultant, I became a pig farmer”