Ferme de Cagnolles, Dordogne, France
Carmen and Benoit welcome us at the Ferme de Cagnolle, in Dordogne, not far from the very nice village of Belvès. The farm is about 13.5ha wide, entirely cultivated, with forest or meadow, sprinkled with edible vegetable garden squares or with orchard areas. Benoit has planted more than 4000 trees since he arrived in 2008 on the premises. He explains that while there is a lot of talk about the benefits of growing trees, the monoculture of trees creates at least as many problems as any monoculture. Therefore, he planted trees to collect their fruits but as well a lot of other trees in between. They are trimmed so that everyone has enough sunlight to grow and they bring vegetal diversity with the hope that they become host to an abundant biodiversity.
Benoit is a young man of 32 years of age who without being very talkative, speaks his mind and his convictions without unnecessary circumvolutions. There is a coherence to his words, his attitude and his life that gives him a confident presence. He is a neo-farmer who started his path more than 10 years ago. After business management studies which did not convince him to go work for a big company, he leaves for a road trip to Mexico. He will stay there for a full year. In his early twenties, his diploma accomplished, speaking 3 languages, Benoit would like to help others, those who are in countries which struggle more. In Mexico, after a back ache, he meets an American who heals him with energies and chiropractic methods. He then discovers energy rebalancing and shamanism as well as acupuncture. He questions the ego that brought him to help others with the following thought: “If we really want to help these people then it is our model of development that needs to change, because that is what destroys them.”
Following this trip, he goes back to France with the idea to develop an autonomous way of life that limits exploitation. Thanks to a comfortable financial situation, he manages to settle down in the Ferme de Cagnolle, he is 23 years old. Living as an ermit for about 3-4 years, he learns as he goes, develops growing protocols instinctively and does his best to optimize the farm. With an overall objective to revolutionize agriculture, he experiments with “Living Soil Farming” methods which give good results since he succeeds in cultivating demanding vegetables such as tomatoes or eggplants and many others on a soil previously thought to be good only for growing pine wood, this soil is augmented by enormous mounds of organic matter he brought over the years. And it grows! Without irrigation nor watering!
With the arrival of Carmen, who has a communicative smile and an impressive energy, studied the way to conduct an organic farm, the animal aspect is integrated to the farm. For her, the way agriculture is taught nowadays stayed stuck at the post-WWII time with mass production being its only motto, “even organic farming is industrially intensive today”. “Today, we have cut things into such small pieces that there is no global understanding anymore.” Says Benoit. Together, they look to develop creative alternatives while keeping in mind the overall way of working of the ecosystem and move along their path to a more economic viable situation as well as a more open one in order to spread the awareness and their practices.
La Ferme de Cagnolle - Dordogne - France
Videos made on-site:
Introduction to living soil veggie growing
Introduction to Natural Agriculture