Several times a week, khaki waxed pants and a red cap pulled tight on his head, Vincent Pichon arrives at the port of Stiff, in Ushant. The farmer started growing vegetables on the island two years ago. “Here, it is a good soil for vegetables, as in Molène. Last year I produced two tons of tomatoes! He smiles.
In Molène, Vincent cultivates his potatoes or onions in the open field on 3.5 hectares. In Ouessant, tomatoes and other vegetables grow in 900 m2 of greenhouses, a stone’s throw from the village. The rhythm of agricultural work, usually intense during the spring and summer period, is even more so for this farmer like no other, who has to reach his crops… by boat.
Previously, Vincent Pichon used the Penn ar Bed shuttle. An exhausting organization, to the rhythm of the crossing schedules. Fortunately, he recently acquired a used boat. “It’s a fast 450 hp hull to be able to pass the Fromveur,” he explains. The passage du Fromveur, located between Molène and Ouessant, is indeed crossed by very violent currents and navigation is particularly dangerous.
Difficulties linked to insularity
Vincent Pichon was not always a farmer. Five years ago, after working in farms on the continent and in the fishing industry, this jack-of-all-trades decided to start market gardening in Molène, where his wife is from. “I went to see the mayor, we looked to see if there was a piece of land available.” In Ouessant, the neighboring island, its installation was favored by a call for tenders, launched in 2018, by the town, anxious to promote agricultural activity on the island. “Here, most of the land, which was cultivated until the mid-twentieth century, has gradually turned into wasteland. Some plots are inaccessible because of the brambles! We said to ourselves that it would be good to make it available to farmers because, in reality, it is good land, suitable for agriculture, ”explains Dominique Moigne, deputy mayor in charge of the environment. Vincent is no longer the only farmer on the island: a young sheep breeder and a couple of dairy farmers have joined him, as part of a new call for tenders launched by the municipality.
Soon photovoltaic panels
However, being a farmer on an island is not easy. In addition to the difficulty of access to land, there is the problem of access to water, which is very rare on these island lands. Another equation to solve: housing, non-existent or even inaccessible outside the tourist offer. “Oh, I’ve often slept on my sofa bed in my lean-to! says Vincent Pichon. Now I manage by sleeping on the right and on the left. Since June, the three producers have been meeting for a small open air market in the village of Ouessant. And, soon, the market gardener will be able to further increase his production: as part of the local energy loop set up in Ouessant, his greenhouses will be heated by photovoltaic panels. Enough to fill the islanders’ plates with fresh vegetables, grown on site, all year round.
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