New faces in agriculture



“I never asked myself the question. It is an innate choice. I knew that one day I would take over from my parents. » For the past two years, Émilie Fourmond-Lemorton, 34, and her brother Aurélien, 30, have taken over the management of the estate created by their great-grandparents, in the heart of the Norman bocage, in the Orne. A 110 ha farm made up of a certified organic orchard – for cider production – and a herd of dairy cows. Like Émilie and Aurélien, the majority of agricultural installations are still family-run. In 2019, two-thirds of new farmers receiving public aid had settled on the farm of their grandparents, parents or uncles.

But if the model of family reproduction was overwhelming ten years ago, today the profiles are diversifying. The presence of people “outside the family” is more and more marked, as are those not from the agricultural world, the “Nima”. “The share of Nima is growing, particularly in the context of Covid. We receive more and more people who question their way of life. Some carry classic projects, others more atypical”, observes Christophe Isaia, from the transmission center at the Grand Est Chamber of Agriculture, who warns against clichés. ” A person not coming from the agricultural world in retraining does not necessarily become an organic market gardener in a short circuit. »

Each year, the MSA (Mutualité sociale agricole) presents a photograph of those who embrace the profession. In 2020, there were 12,508 new farm managers (– 6.7% over one year) – specialists estimate that 7,000 more are needed each year to ensure generational renewal. Glimmer of hope: among the newcomers, 70% are under 40 years old. Feminization is progressing slowly, with 39.6% of women among the recent settlers.

Another trend: the level of diploma increases, pushing back the average age of installation. The level of education required to obtain certain public aid partly explains this development. They are also more and more numerous to settle down after a first professional life. “I wanted to see something else and avoid the generational conflict,” justifies Émilie Fourmond-Lemorton, employee for ten years in para-agricultural companies.

Same calculation for Dominique Leclerc, breeder of suckler cows in Mayenne. Since August 2021, he has been running his farm full-time, after eight years of juggling a factory job – often at night – and agricultural work. “I took over from my parents in 2014 but I kept an outside job, full-time then part-time, for financial reasons, details the farmer. But after a while, it pulled too hard on the body. »

In Saint-Aubin-de-Baubigné (Deux-Sèvres), Louise Rambaud is about to change her life. This summer 2022, once her 220 goats have arrived, this former retail employee will launch her production of organic milk, sold under the Soignon brand. As a child, she had prepared cheese well from the milk of her grandmother’s two goats. But she wouldn’t “never imagined becoming a farmer”. At 37, this mother of two had been toying with the idea of ​​starting out for six years. She discovered the trade with her husband, who had done replacements as an agricultural employee on a goat farm. The sale of neighboring stables to their house hastened its reconversion.

She imitates the path of her husband, Mickaël Liaigre, operations manager for two years. First a mason like his father, he had to stop his career for health reasons. After a professional certificate in charge of agricultural business (BPREA), he realized his childhood dream. “When he was younger, says Louise Rambaud, he thought it was over because his parents had no farm to pass on to him. » If the profile of novices is changing, so is the type of operation. In 2020, the average surface area of ​​young people installed decreased (34.1 ha against 35 ha in 2019).

Some sectors, such as cattle breeding, are shunned. In 2020, new farmers favored field crops (16%), polyculture or polylivestock (12.7%) and viticulture (10.8%). Very fashionable, the market gardening sector is the only one to have recorded an increase in the number of farms over the past ten years. And if they are not quantifiable, certain trends emerge, such as the inclusion in an organic model, in a short circuit, with a processing stage, and in direct sales. Dynamics that could reshape the face of French agriculture. “To ensure our food security, we must ensure that we maintain a diversity of crops and productions, by ensuring that all sectors live decently”warns François-Étienne Mercier, vice-president of the Young Farmers’ Union.

Whatever their origin, these new farmers share common motivations. By settling in organic market gardening in Vendée, after studies and a CDD in human resources, Stéphane Castanié had a specific goal: “Producing healthy vegetables for the inhabitants of Venansault”. Feeding the French therefore, but also regaining a certain quality of life – “working outside, being able to pick up the children from school”lists Dominique Leclerc – even if it means giving up on previous, more comfortable incomes. “I didn’t think I would pay myself for two years. In the end, I took my sample at the end of the first year. Today I’m getting $1,000 a monthconfides Stéphane Castanié, installed since the beginning of 2020. I don’t think I need more, especially since all my food comes from my gardens. » And these particular kind of business leaders enjoy one thing: being their own boss.

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