The route that joins sea and land...
In the last 40 years Brittany, historically a very poor region of mass emigration, has enjoyed an economic and social miracle. It is now the top French regionfor pig, cattle and chicken farming, first fruits, milk production and fishing and is also important for tourism.
Unfortunately, we have learned that, in our age, such "miracles" often hide real problems and negative side-effects. In fact, France's Cartesian organizational model has condemned Brittany to the two economic activities most disrespectful of local residents and the environment: mass tourism and industrial agriculture. However, despite the fact - or maybe because of it - that the intensive industrial system has blighted the ecosystems of the region and disrupted its rural culture, forms of resistance have been developing to fight a model that, above all else, deprives farmers of their dignity.
It was here, for example, that in the 1960s André Pochon developed an extensive cattle farming system based on pasture rotation. The economic and environmental results were so astounding that incredulous scientists from IRNA, the national agronomic research institute, came to study his techniques. Partly thanks to their own cultural specificity, these pockets of resistance have developed thanks to a strong associational network. Their natural meeting with Slow Food has allowed them to build a real transversal network, capable of linking oyster harvesters, farmers, cooks, food producers, consumers and local associations, connecting different areas and the coast with the interior.
The specific nature of the Breton food communities is precisely this need to share action and reflection, transcending or, better still, integrating their single distinctive traits.
Hence the staging of Taste Workshops bringing together Lorient cabbage and sea-born natural oysters, both Slow Food Presidia. Hence the setting up of the Federation des Races Locales to coordinate farmers of traditional local breeds, a campaign in conjunction with the local Kaol Kozh and Triptolème associations to defend the right of farmers to produce their own seeds, and collaboration with restaurateurs and meetings with co-producers.
Since 2010, 12 food communities have been set up around these projects in Brittany: Blanc de l'Ouest pigs; Ouessant island black bees; Bretonne Pie Noir, Armoricaine, Nantaise and Froment du Léon cat- tle; Belle-Île and Landes sheep; Lorient cabbage; ancient Breton grains; Rennes Coucou chicken and Natural Breton oysters.
The five local convivia are an active and integral part of this network.
Brittany's food communities have found themselves in the eye of the cyclone, but the Bretons, always great navigators, are charting a new course to emerge from the storm.
Slow Food Almanac 2012