Ritzy Parisian Boulevard Goes Rural as French Farmers (and Their Cows) Take Over Champs-Elysees


The scene on the famous French street this weekend. Photo via the BBC.

Visitors to the fashionable Champs Elysees in Paris this weekend encountered something other than the usual chic cafes and luxury shops: cows, sheep, pigs, grass, and farmers selling their wares. The two-day takeover of the famous street, whose name mean "Elysian Fields" in French, was carried out overnight in order to raise awareness about the country's agricultural sector and the problems its farmers face."It's about re-establishing contact with the public about what our profession is and what they want from it," said William Villeneuve, president of the Jeunes Agriculteurs (French Young Farmers), which organized the $5.3 million event. "Do they want the cheapest products in the world or do they want products that pay producers?"

Though such a pricey publicity stunt probably wouldn't happen anywhere other than in France, where the farmer is a "beloved but beleaguered figure," according to the BBC, it reflects growing efforts in many developed countries to get people -- particularly city dwellers -- back in touch with what they eat and where and how it's grown.

Visitors Taste Regional Foods, Learn About Farm Life
The French farmers brought in 8,000 plots of earth and 150,000 plants, including 650 trees, to cover three-quarters of a mile of the busy thoroughfare, which runs from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. More than a million people -- and perhaps up to two million -- were expected to visit Sunday and Monday, a holiday weekend in France. The union, which represents more than 50,000 farmers under the age of 35, hopes the temporary "farm" will "showcase farm production from sheep breeding to crop growing," as the BBC reported, and educate visitors about the soaring production costs and falling product prices that are making farmers' lives difficult.

It's not all serious politics, however; the event offers tastes of regional food specialties, as well the opportunity to buy plants, produce, and soil. On Sunday afternoon, Paris butchers organized a mass barbecue along the boulevard.

"We are not here to bemoan our plight," Villeneuve said. "We are here to promote our trade."

More about farmers:
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Peruvian Farmers Happy to Offset West's Carbon
Fair Trade Farmers Spearhead Climate Adaptation Efforts
Monsanto Has Farmers Cornered
Instead of Walking Miles, Indian Farmers Use Cellphones to Operate Irrigation Pumps
The Farmer-Veteran Coalition. A Modern Swords to Ploughshares
Urban Farmers and Repurposed Building for Nonprofit Tenants
Meet Brent Ridge, Farmer and Founder of Beekman Farms

Tags: Agriculture | Farming | France | Paris

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