The olive farm spans three generations and is currently owned by two brothers. It is about 30 hectares, and located a mere 10 minutes away from Montpellier, France. The farm is located in what is referred to as the Septentrionale zone, or a specific geographical area in the south of France conducive to olive growing. The operation is slightly smaller scale, with the majority of the labor done manually, including the harvest, the sorting for tapenades, and the bottling of olive oil.
Amanor-Boadu(2003) defines value-adding agriculture:
1. If one is rewarded for performing an activity that traditionally has been performed at another stage farther down the supply chain.
2. If one is rewarded for performing an activity that has never been performed in the supply chain.
• The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center defines added value agriculture:
“where value is added economically to a product by changing its current place, time, and from one set of characteristics that are more preferred in the marketplace.”
• These definitions encompass direct marketing, and when producers act outside of traditional commodity production to receive a higher return through Agro-tourism.
• The farm adds value by integrating and inspiring tourism. They have a quaint shop so there is an outlet for direct selling from the producer, and they welcome the public with activities such as festivals, picnics, and tours of their museum.
• The French have very strong aspects of identite culturelle de population, or numerous ways which they define themselves through food. They have a strong desire to reconnect with their food, as expressed by the recent boom in the agro-tourism industry. Consumers want an experience; to visit farms to learn about their food. Now, farms such as the olive farm are a prime demonstration of value-added agriculture, as they are not only able to market their product, but also their lifestyle and facilities.
The olive farm has noticed that customers are now especially concerned about the health of the environment, and their own personal health. To respond to these trends, the farm is going organic.
• It is a challenge to continually find new customers. In order to increase the farm’s clientele, they try to target the tourists. These people tend to spend more time on the farm which offers the museum, a film about the farm, and tastings. The farm hopes consumers will gain an understanding of the different varieties of olive oil, and buy the products of the farm. The local people can also become tourists in a sense, by taking their time on the farm. The farm offers onsite picnics for weekday or weekend lunch breaks so customers can enjoy the products sold at the farm under the olive trees. The consumers of the farm usually consist of wealthier retired couples, families, and executives from the nearby city, as the oil is a luxury product.
In addition to going organic, the farm has further diversified from competitors by planting heirloom olive varieties collectively called “Grand Crus.” This means that the cultivars are all local varieties, no more than 300 trees are planted per hectare, and no more than 4 liters of oil per tree is harvested. The older varieties are unique in the market and embody the region, a crucial element of success.
• 70% of the production is sold directly from the on-site store.
• 5% is exported, mainly to the US, Canada, Belgium and Sweden. It is hard to market to Asian markets since olive oil is used sparingly in the cuisine.
• 25% is sold by other merchants, restaurants, and fine bakeries
• As detailed by Abel Duarte Alonso (2010),when restaurants carry local olive products, it increases the interest of customers, and acts as an incentive to attract customers to the olive farm or to buy the farm’s products.
• The olive farm almost exclusively supplies one specific restaurant, and receives great publicity in the meantime. The chef collaborated with the farm to create a special mix of oil, as well as a special bottle to be displayed in the restaurant.Â Diners are given a vial of the oil with their bill after they have finished eating, and a gorgeous glass case at the entrance of the restaurant displays the products of the farm.
The chef states in our interview, “I chose this oil because it is a product of quality, and is a product very representative of the region. It is a product made with passion, soul, and feeling. I use this oil and no others.”
Common Agriculture Policy, known in France as the Politique Agricole Commune,PAC, was focused on the objective of increasing food production since food security was a postwar issue. Farmers were given grants and subsidies for excess food produced. By the time the 1980’s rolled around however, the opposite, food surplus, was now the problem. The policy’s aim of creating food security worked too well. The French refer to it as being a “victim de son success.” Thanks to large reforms in 2003, grants are now given to farmers independently of amount produced to avoid the problem of a food surplus.
The farm gets such grants from the national government, the EU, and the Region, especially since the farm is working on developing themselves as an organic farm. Still, because olive growing makes up only .1% of the agricultural products produced, it is not given financial priority in relation to the PAC budget. To combat this, growers have united under AFIDOL, Association FranĂ§aise Interprofessionnelle de l’Olive.
AFIDOL is a professional olive association which includes 30,000 growers, 30 confectioners that use olives in their products, and 18 olive nurseries. They petition for government funding, carry out commercial research, and assist growers by providing technical knowledge specific to Mediterranean olive growing.
The farm also markets their products with a Qualite Sud de France label which is an association created by the Languedoc-Roussillon Region. The products are described as “coming from the soul, heart, and taste buds.” Most importantly, the label creates a brand identity that links local products to a market, and is a mark of quality for the customer.
All in all, the farm excels at adding value to their products and incorporating itself into niche markets, with some help from public policy and membership organizations. Even though the price of the farm’s olive oil is high due to the labor costs, consumers in France are driven by the desire to connect to their food. This connection is important for the farm because it allows them to convey to customers that the extra price means that the olive oil is more flavorful, healthier for the tree, rooted in tradition, and generally of a better quality.
Slide 2-Vialla, Pierre. Personal Interview. July 2010.
Slide 4-Amanor-Boadu, Vincent. 2003. A Conversation About Value-Added Agriculture. Kansas Cooperative Development Center.
Slide 5- Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. www.agmrc.org
Slide 6-Vialla, Pierre. Personal Interview. July 2010.
Slide 7- L’ot, Delphine.(2010,May). The Common Agriculture Policy. Lecture presented at SupAgro University, Montpellier France.
Slide 8-Rizvi, S.H.(2009, October). Role of Food Processing in International Agricultural Development. Lecture presented at Cornell University, Ithaca NY.
Slide 9-Vialla, Pierre. Personal Interview. July 2010.
Slide 10-Vialla, Pierre. Personal Interview. July 2010.
Fort, Fatiha. (2010, May).Lecture presented at SupAgro University, Montpellier France.
Slide 11-Vialla, Pierre. Personal Interview. July 2010.
Slide 12- Alonso, Abel Duarte. 2010. Olives, hospitality and tourism: a Western Australian perspective . British Food Journal. Vol. 112 No. 1, 2010.pp. 55-68.
Slide 13-Cellier, Eric. Personal Interview. July 2010.
Slide 15- L’ot, Delphine.(2010,May). The Common Agriculture Policy. Lecture presented at SupAgro University, Montpellier France.
Slide 16-Vialla, Pierre. Personal Interview. July 2010.
Tezenas du Montcel, Laure(2010, May). L’Agritourisme- Bienvenue a la Ferme. Lecture presented at the Herault Agricultural Board, Montpellier France.
Slide 18- www.suddefrancewines.com, www.lesmaisonsdeproducteurs.com