A textbook case | Breton Peasant Journal

In a society where the link with agriculture has often been weakened, educational farms help to rebuild a relationship and spread a positive image of the profession. Focus on a Morbihan success story.

“Here, it’s a farm, not an animal park”. With a simple sentence, Tiphaine Chatal sums up the spirit of “La petite arche de la vallée”, her educational farm. After working in equestrian entertainment, the young woman returned to settle eight years ago on the family farm in Nivillac. “At the time, a neighbor who was retiring offered us his land.” For the Morbihannaise, this is the trigger. The one who likes to discover and share her passions with young audiences has had an idea in mind for several years: to create an educational farm. But no way to start lightly. The first year of operation, priority is given to the dairy farm. “It was only once this part had stabilized that I really began to think about and concretely design my reception project”. With a clear line of conduct: the educational component should constitute an economic activity in its own right. “I wanted something that generates real income, that doesn’t jeopardize the financial health of the farm.”

The months of May and June correspond to the high season for school visits to the educational farm.

A real potential

Thanks to her previous experience in hosting schoolchildren, she knows that the exercise, to be profitable, implies being able to accommodate an entire bus chartered by a school, ie around fifty children. All under strict security conditions, in order to be approved as an establishment open to the public. “We are lucky here to have a site where everything is on one level. But we had to imagine and secure the path taken by the little ones”. The activity of the farm does not stop during the visits, the route was therefore designed not to cross the road of a Cuma associate coming to collect equipment or that of a truck making a delivery.
Leaving nothing to chance, the farmer visits other educational farms in search of good ideas. And it goes so far as to carry out an inventory of schools in the surrounding area. “I have identified 75 schools located within a 20-minute drive”. If we add the leisure centers that exist today in almost every municipality, there is no doubt that the potential is there!

The dairy farm also has a few goats, chickens, rabbits and a pig, which makes it possible to evoke the various agricultural productions.

The virtuous circle of agriculture

So in 2019, Tiphaine, now associated on the farm with her husband Mathieu, took the plunge and received her first groups. “Depending on the age groups, I adapt the presentation and the activities. For kindergartens, who have not yet mastered reading, I use images a lot and I try to play on the five senses. From the CP level, the approach is more experimental, we make butter for example”.
Through the various workshops, it is the virtuous circle of an exploitation that takes shape. “I explain that the crops are used to feed the cows which produce the milk which can be transformed into butter. When we cross the manure pit, I remind the children, pinching their noses, that it helps to grow the vegetables and fruits they see in the vegetable garden”. Everywhere, the educational dimension is present. In the garden, four plots make it possible to explain the rotation of crops practiced at farm level. And if we are indeed on a dairy farm, a few goats, hens, rabbits and a pig are there to evoke more broadly the different facets of Breton agriculture.

full school season

The success having been there from the first season, a room dedicated to reception was created, via Inaf funding (see above). “This room is an asset for hosting children’s picnics, and also certain workshops, especially when the weather is bad,” says Tiphaine. Here, we are in full period for schoolchildren, with visits that focus on the months of May and June. Buses usually arrive around 10 a.m., after milking. And they leave around 3:30 p.m. It is time-consuming, of course, but it remains compatible with the activity of the farm”.
In addition to schools, the educational farm also receives groups and families throughout the year. Also, so as not to be constantly disturbed by telephone inquiries, the breeder relies on a website with a calendar of availability and online reservations. “By welcoming the public to my farm, I feel useful. I feel like I value all of agriculture. My parents campaigned to defend the profession. Me, it’s my way of doing it “. A way that could be school.

Jean-Yves Nicolas

For more information: The small arch of the valley, place called Guervinan, 56130 Nivillac.
Mail : lapetitearchedelavallee56 @gmail.com, site : www.lapetitearchedelavallee.com

A well thought out project

As part of the Major Investment Plan 2018-2022, the French State has set up, in partnership with the European Union, the National Initiative for French Agriculture (Inaf). Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne has been authorized to distribute the Inaf loan, which allows the borrower to benefit from a guarantee fund. Tiphaine Chatal’s project, very well thought out, fits perfectly into the framework of this financing on advantageous terms, since it is a matter of diversification which allows her to provide additional income on the farm. Stéphane Renaud, Agricultural Customer Manager at CMB, Pôle de Questembert.

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