Every March in Paris a particular ritual welcomes an eclectic crowd on foot, hoof, and paw. Farmers, growers, winemakers, cheesemakers, artisans and craftsmen from the six corners of the Hexagon bring the best of land and sea to one destination: Le Salon International de l’Agriculture. Here’s our report from the 58th edition.
“Attention! Restez sur le côtés!” cry out the minders as prize cattle amble along their way to the milking station, mingling with the crowd as if it was just another day at the farmyard. One of them is 4-year-old Neige, this year’s mascot, a prime 650kg specimen of the Abondance breed from the Alps. Along the way Neige crosses a pop group on their way to the stage.
On the next stand a group of folk dancers just finished their routine to the delight of the crowd. There is an energy everywhere; it’s busy, it’s vibrant, it feels entirely… what is the word? Normal!
Jean-Luc Poulain, President of the International Agricultural Show, had said early in the planning stages that he was confident that visitors would show up to the rendezvous. Over 85 percent of exhibitors had already confirmed their presence four months ahead, but as for the general public? They’d have to wait and see.
Well, if opening day is any indication, 2022 will be remembered as a banner year. As we talked to exhibitors from different sectors, they all agreed that visitor numbers on the first day were like they had never seen before. Perhaps it is these past two years of travel restrictions and limited gatherings, or the forced closure of the salon in 2021, that made the heart grow fonder. Exhibitors at Le Rucher du Grand Jardin added that the number of people was very encouraging, and the sales of their organic honey were following suit.
The team at Burgundy winemakers Maison Charles Rébillon said they noticed not just the huge crowds but that they were also seeing a lot of young faces, more than previous years. The bond between farm and table appears to be stronger than ever.
The theme this year “”Agriculture: our daily life, your future” answers to the way consumers nowadays are ever more attentive to the quality of their food, and the essential role of farmers and their daily work. Now, more than ever, the challenge is to build a common future.
There is an overall focus on sustainability, biodiversity, reducing impact on the environment, and the future of food as a connecting thread among a majority of growers and producers, from the small scale to the large, established, multinational brands. Some exhibitors sell their wares, others show off their savoir-faire, others perform an educational role. Most of them, besides for these few days sharing an arena, would rarely cross paths at any other time.
Far from frozen in tradition, the fair is a thriving showcase of advances in technology and science. One cow collar for example, instead of the quaint metal bell, features a solar panel on each side, and connects to the farmer’s smartphone to draw a virtual fence that will trigger a melody if the animal exceeds the limit, adding a little zap if needed.
As we strolled from hall to hall, we realized there’s no way to see it all in one day- the exhibition is immense, with over 1,000 exhibitors.
There are juried competitions, performances, prizes, music, wine tastings, and cooking demonstrations. Wherever you look there is something bright, interesting, or entertaining, in a spirited celebration of the bounty of the French farmland and the know-how and passion for quality of its artisans.
Salon International de l’agriculture
Until March 6, 2022
Paris Expo – Porte de Versailles
9am to 7pm daily
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