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Philosophy   Print  E-mail 

    The philosophy behind our agriculture

Respect for man and respect for nature go hand in hand

This, in a nutshell, is the philosophy of our farm, La Fontaine Pataux, situated at an altitude of 900 m in Longirod, in the foothills of the Jura Mountains. Originally founded simply to provide healthy and natural food for our family, La Fontaine Pataux has now grown to the point where it can supply a small number of outside customers. The farm is managed according to ancient methods which consist of working with nature, not against it. This means that the use of any synthetic chemical products (herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers) is avoided in the production of our fruit and vegetables, but also that we work towards the constant improvement of the soil through methods which nature itself has devised. The objective is to return energy, vitality and health to the soil which feeds the plants and animals which we consume, thus exercising a positive influence on our own health. You are what you eat and man's health is directly influenced by the quality of his food. We supply to our customers the same produce which we place, by love and by conviction, in the plates of our children and our own. In addition to providing tasty and fresh produce, we would therefore also like to make a positive contribution to our customers' health.

Fruit and vegetables
Our fruit and vegetables grow in soil which is free from any chemical input. A vast array of vegetables adorns our gardens from springtime through late autumn. The only fertilizer employed is compost in one of its most complete and nutritious forms: earthworm-compost. This is a top quality soil addition produced by the digestion of organic matter by earthworms, the end-result being a substance considered by many horticulturalists and vegetable growers as "pure gold", providing vital nutritious ingredients to the plants in a readily accessible form. Plants benefiting from this natural fertilizer are healthy and robust, and able to resist diseases and parasites to a large extent. Additional measures are taken to protect our plants from enemies, for example alternating rows of plants rather than planting a given species in one single space (for example, onions growing next to carrots will protect the latter from parasites), and rotating cultures so that each vegetable in each new season will find fresh soil, free from species-specific diseases. Certain flowers, for example marigold, chase away parasites with their perfume, and add colour to the vegetable garden. Natural predators, which thrive as long as the environment is free from poison, also contribute to plant protection. Ladybirds and their larvae dine on lice, for example, helping to keep the latter in check. A natural balance is thus established which eliminates the need for chemical pesticides. If in spite of all this a particularly vigorous parasite attack subdues one of our vegetables, as might happen, for example, in a very rainy year to spinach, well, we will do without that vegetable in that particular year. The large variety of our plantations allows us to make up for this absence with other choices.

Our animals
The destiny of farm animals is to be used to satisfy man's needs. Claiming to be sincerely fond of one's animals, but agreeing to raise them for their meat might seem a paradox or outright hypocrisy. This is indeed our claim, however, since we believe that respect of animals is not only an ethical principle in its own right, but also a fundamental component of man's well-being. Is it possible to derive any good from the consumption of creatures which one considers with contempt or neglect? We think not.
We therefore consider it essential that our animals live as naturally and as happily as possible, in conditions which correspond to the needs of their species, and in a state of health derived from the quality of their life rather than from any systematic medical input. Our sheep, our ducks and other farm animals therefore live outside the whole year, but of course have access to stables and houses where they can take refuge from the weather if they choose. They are fed on a purely vegetarian basis, on grass and hay grown chemistry-free on our ground, as well as on organically grown cereals (wheat, barley, maize, etc.). No antibiotics, no hormones. They reproduce according to their own seasonal cycles, without artificial insemination or "encouragements" such as artificial light or heating. Maintaining their health is based on the same principles as the health of our plants: A life in fresh air and in the sunlight, in natural conditions and in small herds, with plenty of space for each individual, increases the natural resistance of the animals. Should an animal be sick, however, we obviously do not deny it veterinary care. A sick animal is a rare event on our farm, however, and an almost completely absent phenomenon as far as the young animals are concerned which were born on our farm.

Natural cycles
Nature works in cycles, and we endeavour to create appropriate conditions for the completion of those same cycles on our farm. There is the seasonal cycle, of course, which dictates the reproduction of our animals and which regenerates and cleans the soil during the warm and cold seasons, respectively. But also the cycle of nutrition: plants are food for animals, which produce manure, which becomes food for the soil's micro-organisms, earthworms and other creatures, which produce top-quality compost, which becomes food for the plants and so forth. Nothing is lost on our farm.

The workers of the soil : micro-organisms (EM) and earthworms
For many years La Fontaine Pataux has practiced earthworm composting. Earthworms are among the world's best compost-producers. The process is simple: organic matter (manure, leaves, kitchen leftovers) is first piled up and left to a fermentation process by bacteria, which occurs naturally and which produces heat at the centre of the pile. Thereafter the half-composted matter is spread out no thicker than about 30 cm, in order to accommodate the earthworms' need for oxygen (compost worms always work close to the soil's surface).

Just as naturally, earthworms will begin to populate the organic matter. With a well-established basic population of worms, such as we have on our farm, this invasion is fast, and in favourable conditions of temperature and humidity, the worms reproduce with astonishing speed. They ingest and digest the organic matter and generate as an outcome the most fertile soil imaginable. Since a large surface of fertile soil is an open invitation for "plants which we don't want in a given place", commonly called weeds, we plant pumpkin seedlings on our compost, which quickly completely cover this inviting surface with their generous leaves, preventing other plants from settling there and keeping the compost shady and humid for our worms. At the end of the season, a magnificent earthworm compost is ready for use, representing the most balanced and complete form of plant food imaginable. It is incorporated in the soil which supports our tomatoes, aubergines (eggplant), salads, strawberries and a host of other plants, not to forget our flowers. As a "by-product", we also harvest our often monumental pumpkins, which end up in the manger of our sheep in winter, a favourite treat containing important vitamins for the pregnant ewes.

A further method for enriching life and health of the soil is the use of "effective micro-organisms" (EM), developed in Japan, and which La Fontaine Pataux has used for several years with very positive results. EM is a mixture of about 80 different types of micro-organisms which are active against decay, and replace this form of decomposition with another, fermentation. A simplified description of the process would be to say that "good bacteria" chase away the "bad". The micro-organisms in question are commonly known and omnipresent (bakery or beer yeast, bacteria active in the acidification of milk, photosynthesis bacteria etc.) Their combination in a single mixture produces regenerating and anti-oxydating characteristics, providing valuable assistance during the composting process, which they help to accelerate, in the revitalisation of the soil and the strengthening of plant health, as well as in the improvement of the intestinal flora of animals, which can often be cured from common digestive troubles with a single dose of EM. The method has been developed by a Japanese professor of agronomy, Teruo Higa, following his own exposure to the massive use of chemicals in conventional citrus fruit production, the subsequent ill effects on his health and his conviction that there must be a better way to keep plants healthy and to protect man's well-being.

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