For one week each year, France is all about cows and goats and mutton.
People genuinely love it, politicians worship it and the French media drools over it: It’s called the “Salon de l’Agriculture” and if you’re French there is simply no way around it.
This year, the salon will take place between February 22nd and March 2nd but before FrenchPeasants ventures into the actual coverage of the Salon itself, I would like to explain why this is such a big deal.
What is the Salon de l’Agriculture?
The salon was created in 1844 to replace the countryside fairs that took place all over France. The idea was to regroup all the farmers in one place and have them display their production and compete over the quality of their livestock.
In 1870 the Salon came to Paris, and in 1925 more specifically to Porte de Versailles. It hasn’t moved since.
Four reasons why it matters:
The best samples of the year’s production
Drawing from the tradition of the General Agricultural Competition for Animals, the salon is the place where professionals display the “best” livestock France has to offer. Genetics are often very impressive and the breeding market is tough.
Gastronomy-wise also, “terroir” producers from all over France bring the best cheeses, wines, meats and local specialities to the fair!
French soul re-enacted
France perceives itself as a rural country much more than a maritime or industrial nation. Although they might have never lived in the countryside, French people identify with rurality and take advantage of this salon to reconnect with their roots. If you walk around the show, you will hear countless people referring to an old aunt who used to be from Bretagne or a grandpa from Auvergne.
The salon de l’Agriculture is today the second most visited fair in France after the international automobile show with almost 700000 visitors last year.
Parisian visitors like to bring their children to this vast farm and learn about how their food is being produced.
Every politician goes to the salon and even more so during the presidential campaign.
According to analysts, this serves a double purpose for candidates: It can help them win the “peasants’ votes” and it gives them a good image –someone who knows about the rural heritage, respects local producers and hopefully has family in one of the provinces. For President Sarkozy this exercice was not easy:
In 2012, Candidate Francois Hollande spent 10 hours there but probably the best at this exercise was President Jacques Chirac.
All the French media covers the Salon de l’Agriculture. The spotlights are on for 9 days and that’s probably the only time of the year you’ll hear so much about the rural world’s preoccupations.