At the Pamiers market, Antoine Martin offered his products from his farm in Saint-Jean-du-Falga. Taking over the Clarac family’s leased land, he grows his vegetables in Bariol.
Courgettes and tomatoes are already blooming under the chapel’s greenhouses. The peas will be on shelves in less than a month. In the Bariol district, it is impossible not to miss the whiteness of the 5,500 m2 greenhouses installed by Robert Clarac some thirty years ago. The soil there is loamy, “also a bit loamy and with a few pebbles”, specifies the new master of the place: Antoine Martin. Almost new, because two years ago the 36-year-old vegetable gardener took over the business that Sébastien Clarac’s grandfather had founded in the early 1950s. A true Appamian institution.
Antoine Martin, who has been installed on his own since 2013 in Saint-Jean-du-Falga, did not hesitate long to welcome Robert Clarac when the latter decided to give up the profession. “We’ve known each other for a while,” explains Antoine Martin. When he offered to take over the job, I had to think about it for a day or two, then I said yes.” The market will be completed in October 2020. “I had already taken over from my boss in Saint-Jean, that makes you more.” , laughs the gardener, “But, he says, I’m not going any further. With 6 ha of land and 1 ha of greenhouses, that’s more than enough.”
Antoine Martin, who was actually a tenant, undertook on his arrival to convert the entire acreage to organic (see box).
Sébastien Clarac, now at the helm of the Petit Marché – a structure opened in 2008 – continues the family tradition through proxies. He admits: “Actually, I didn’t want to go back to vegetable gardening like my grandfather or father did.” The Small Market is now a real retail space where you can find lots of fruit and vegetables. “In the beginning, Sébastien Clarac recalls, when we decided to sell our products on the farm, we did so in a 50m2 space behind a hangar.” The regular customers of Clarac’s stalls at the Saturday market did the rest. 5 years ago, after further expansion, organic products found their niche. Between wine, beer and cheese, Antoine Martin’s vegetables are now sold there. “It’s difficult to shorten the circuit for fun, Antoine Martin. All we need is a wheelbarrow to transport our vegetables to the store.”
the same products as at the Saturday market
An agreement binds the two parties. “We sell Antoine’s products at the same price as he does on the market,” specifies Sébastien Clarac. There are no tough negotiations between producer and retailer here. “It’s a good compromise, Antoine Martin believes, and the organic spirit is well showcased in the Petit Marché. In supermarkets, organic is packaged, overpacked. The salads on offer are cut here in the morning and placed on the shelves in no time at all.” . “You can’t get any fresher than that,” enthuses Sébastien Clarac. “And that’s where I find my account,” the gardener specifies. I have a loyal clientele on Saturday mornings, but I only do one market a week. Today I can tell you that you will find the same products at Bariol.”
That winter and before the start of sowing and planting, Antoine Martin carried out work on the irrigation system, “fortunately there is no water shortage here. We have two wells and seven pumps”. What to pour the vegetables of summer.
The switch to organic ends in October 2022
Antoine Martin is not one to use chemicals. But before Bariol’s lands can receive organic certification, it will take three years to complete the conversion to organic. “Robert Clarac worked conventionally, but the fertilizers he used were already organic. So it’s going pretty well.” Certainly there were some traces of chemical weed around the greenhouses, but nothing really bad or inevitable to guarantee the label of tomorrow’s produce. The renovation should be completed in the fall. “Our facility in Bariol, the gardener continues, will make crop rotation easier for us.” But the larger company obliges Antoine Martin to be a manager. “Today I have to prepare and anticipate the construction sites,” he concludes.