Sheep in “Suisse Normande”, France
Sheep in “Suisse Normande”, France
My name is Florian de Jacquelot and I am in the process of becoming a shepherd at the Ferme de la Bruyère (Heather Farm) in the Calvados department of Normandy.
A path around the world leading back to family land in Normandy
After getting my degree as an agricultural engineer and interning on several farms, I dedicated myself to the international solidarity field. For six years, I worked for NGOs in different African countries on rural development issues. I continued the work of solidarity with the CCFD-Terre Solidaire association in France, supporting peasant farmed in West Africa. Working with West African peasants gave me a great respect and an interest in animal raising, planting the seed of my hope to become a farmer one day.
In 2017, when the farmer who had been renting the Ferme de la Bruyère in Le Détroit announced that he would soon be retiring, it was the perfect opportunity for me to follow my dream and become a farmer. And thus the adventure began to take shape, first by taking over the lease on the farm and preparing and managing the transition from Paris. In the summer of 2019, we moved from Paris to a small town near the farm to dedicate myself to preparing the farm full time. Allison, our girls and I said goodbye to the city and we love our new life in the countryside.
The past several months, I have interned with three different shepherds to learn their trade in Limousin, Manche and Calvados. I am truly indebted to them and very grateful for the knowledge and skills that they shared with me. Working alongside them, I learned to care for a nourish the sheep and the lambs, participated in sheering, and learned about the best ways to manage pastures.
After three years of preparing, I am finally ready to welcome my first herd of sheep on my farm.
The Ferme de la Bruyère, the new home for my future herd of sheep!
The Ferme de la Bruyère is a farm of approximately 100 acres situated in the “Suisse Normande” area of Normandy. Although this is the typical size of a small family farm, every year more and more small farms are absorbed into bigger, industrial farms every year. Maintaining small farms is vital to preserving small-scale agriculture. It is an old farm on the outskirts of the village of Le Détroit with a landscape that is typical of the area: the “bocage” topography with gentle hills, prairies, fields of grains, a few streams and wooded areas here and there. This farm belonged to my grandparents and has been in the family for over 150 years.
For many years, it was farmed by neighboring farmers who practiced mixed agriculture (multiple crops and diverse livestock) and tended orchard-pastures; a agricultural tradition which was respectful of the environment. Then with “modernized” agricultural techniques, the farm became specialized in dairy-cow raising. Little by little, hedges were removed, turning small pastures into wide fields, the orchards were removed, and prairies were tilled to grow grains. The sheep which had been a staple of the landscape before WWII disappeared. Part of what I seek with this project is to recreate and restore the bocage, the orchard-pastures of apple trees, and a diversified agriculture.
Agroecology as the foundation of my agricultural techniques
Traditional practices are a source of inspiration for me as they are often more environmentally respectful and allow us to bring out the best in each field or pasture with its unique landscape.
I hope to develop an alliance of traditional knowledge and modern techniques for managing crops and livestock (dynamic pastures, rotating crops and animals, animal well-being).
I have been lucky enough to get to witness this renewed agriculture, respectful of the environment, of humans and of animals thanks to farmers who defend small-scalle agroecological farming. At my farm, my sheep will be almost entirely fed by grazing in the pastures, and will have hay from the farm during the winter and the lambing season. They will also have some grains and legumes to balance their diets when needed. I would also like to use tree farming to provide some of the food for the sheep. In particular, I have been planting willows over the last years for this purpose. The increasingly common heat waves in the summer months can make pastures dry up quicker than they used to, and trees as a source of food for sheep can be a way of adapting to climate change.
The crops and livestock will be certified organic as the process of converting and certifying the farm began over the last few years.
The Bleu de Maine sheep of Didier Juigné
I recently met Mr. Didier Juigné who will soon be retiring and who has agreed to sell me part of his herd of Bleu du Maine sheep. Mr. Juigné is one of only two organic shepherds and breeders for this special breed of sheep.
I chose this breed for several reasons. As industrial farming grows, large-scale agriculture relies on the mass raising of a few breeds that grow fast and are not necessarily very resistant to disease. Unique breeds disappear, animal diversity weakens, and the reliance on pharmaceutical treatments increases. I want to be a part of preserving resilient, outdoor-thriving, French breeds in conditions that keep them healthy and happy, naturally.
Bleu du Maine are a grass-fed and hardy breed, well-adapted to living outdoors. They are comfortable in relatively humid pastures and in extensive (low density) herds, like what I wish to put in place. They are known for being prolific (at least two lambs per ewe) and for having a strong maternal instinct. They produce a lot of milk, and they have nice, good quality wool. I’m hoping to have my wool made into yarn with Laines à l’Ouest http://lainesalouest.fr/, a collective initiated by Stephanie Maubé with whom I interned.
Last but not least, I’m just kind of a fan of the interesting look of these sheep with their dark bluish faces and long thin ears!
Local, direct-to-customer meat
I have chosen to keep a smaller sized herd and add value to the meat they produce by selling direct to my customers at the farm and through local CSAs (community supported agriculture groups) and meat coops. It’s important to me to be in direct contact with my customers to be able to explain my approach to raising sheep and the products that I offer.
In time, we plan to have new activities at the farm. We are developing a garden with vegetables, fruit trees, flowers and herbs and are learning how to use a permacultural approach to our interaction with the land. A local beekeeper has about 15 beehives in the farm’s woods. I am planning to plant 4 hectares of “grazed orchards” (trees planted in pastures) over the next five years. I am also going to continue producing some organic grains and I hope one day use my grains to make finished products like flour or baked goods. Through collective initiatives and the Association de la Ferme de la Bruyère, the farm buildings are being renovated and could also one day host events, classes, and lodgings. We have already hosted small events and the farm can accommodate campers.
But for today, I’m focusing on the sheep that await me!
The next big step is to purchase my first 40 sheep, and for that, I need your support.
What will the money go to?
Getting started in a livestock raising operation requires a lot of investment:
- The purchase of the livestock itself
- Renovating and equipping the stables : barriers, fences, wooden troughs for the winter
- Purchasing and installing fencing for the pastures
- Purchasing agricultural equipment for haying and transporting bales (tractor)
- Renovating some of the bocage landscape which has degraded over time, and planting trees for a more divers environment and happier, healthier sheep
I have estimated that this initial investment will cost about 50,000 € or $56,000. Some of it will be financed by a loan, and part of it is from my own savings. My hope is that this crowdfunding campaign will be able to cover the cost of my first herd of sheep, allowing me to reduce the amount of debt I will have and to have a secure start for my business.
One ewe costs between 180€ and 290€ (about $200-300). Therefore, in order to purchase 40 ewes, I will need about 10,000€ ($11,200) to get a good start with a good quality herd.
40 sheep may sound like a lot! But to put it in perspective, 1 cow is about the equivalent of 6 sheep in terms of their needs for space, food and care. 2 rams will also be purchased in order to ensure reproduction. The herd will grow, and I estimate that I can stabilize it at about 150 ewes to raise enough lambs to earn my living.
I’ve given myself a goal (and I hope you’ll share it with me) of raising 7,500 € (8,400) through this crowdfunding campaign. This sum will allow me to purchase at least 30 ewes.
If we manage to surpass this initial goal, your donations will be used for buying the final 10 ewes and the 2 rams, and will help finance some of the equipment needed to set up the stables and pastures. I want to have good quality equipment to be able to care for my sheep and respect their wellbeing. I’d also like to make sure that they feel happy at home and won’t go looking for greener pastures in the neighbor’s fields!
If you cannot or prefer not to contribute via internet, you can contribute using a wire transfer or by sending a check (please note however that cashing a US$ check in France costs about $40). Checks may be sent to: Florian de Jacquelot, 10 rue du Val d'Ante, 14700 Falaise, France
Your checks will be sent to MiiMOSA to join the rest of the collected funds. Please include your contact information (e-mail, telephone, postal address) so that I can thank you, to keep track of the availability of perks and send them to you as necessary.
I hope that my project has meaning for you. For me, it is an essential step into my new life, rooted in my choices with regards to farming and the environment: organic farming; small-scale animal raising; outdoor-thriving, French and hardy breeds in a region that needs to see new agroecological perspectives emerge.
I will be forever grateful for your support, which will allow me to begin this new adventure of becoming a shepherd – and to make my shepherd-in-training happy!
Come and see us any time at the farm !
Contribution without perks
For 15€ ($17) or more
A big thank you!
A sincere thanks, I’ll share your name on Facebook (unless you don’t want me to) and I’ll send you a postcard of the farm with my sheep!
For 30€ ($34) or more
My thanks and visibility for your generosity
In addition to the previous perk, you’ll get a postcard for the first two years. Your name will be inscribed on a sign thanking the farm’s donors.
For 50€ ($56) or more
A guided visit of the farm and of the biodiversity of the bocage landscape
Wow! Thank you! In addition to the previous perk, you are invited to visit the farm to see what everyday life is like. If you’d like to see the lambs, aim for late winter. I’ll take you on a visit of the farm and show you the biodiversity of the bocage. I’ll share with you the key elements to understanding the ecosystem involved in animal husbandry : water, prairies, trees, and sheep.
For 80 € ($90) or more.
Share a meal at the farm and leave with 1kg of meat.
What generosity! In addition to the previous perk, you will be invited to enjoy a meal using products from the farm (though if you’d like some lamb or mouton, you’ll have to simmer until summer 2021). The meal will be accompanied by a tasting of local cider or beer, with a little calvados as digestive liquor for those who like it! You’ll also receive one kg of meat to take home with you.
For 100 € ($112) or more
A weekend of camping at the farm and 1kg of meat.
I am touched by your generosity; you must really love the countryside! In addition to the previous perk, you are invited to camp at the farm or, depending on renovations, perhaps in a guest room (can accommodate 2 adults and 2 children max), with breakfast and dinner included. I look forward to seeing you. You’ll be able to take home 1kg of meat, as long as you come in or after the summer of 2021.
For 120€ ($135) or more
Come visit and take home yarn made of pure Normandy wool
In addition to the previous perk, you will receive two skeins of pure wool yarn from Laines à l’Ouest to let your creative talents run free! The skeins are 100g and made for size 5 European needles. There is even some Bleu du Maine wool in there!
For 150€ ($169) or more
Sponsor the purchase of a sheep and choose its name.
Thank you for your solidarity! In addition to the 80€ perk, (visit to the farm with lunch or dinner) you can sponsor the purchase of one sheep, and you can name it whatever you like! I’ll send you a photo of the sheep and send you some news from time to time. You will also receive 2kg of meat (during or after the summer of 2021).
For 250€ ($280) or more
Sponsor the purchase of a sheep and receive a quarter of lamb
Thank you so much! In addition to the previous perk, you can go home with a quarter of lamb (starting in the summer of 2021). By the way, we hope you’ll come and see us as often as you like. Please order at least 3 weeks in advance.
For 500€ ($562) or more
Sponsor the purchase of two sheep and receive a half of lamb
What can I say? I can never thank you enough for this immense generosity. In addition to the 80€ perk, you can name two sheep when you come and visit, I’ll send you a photo and some updates, and you’ll receive a half lamb (shoulder chops, loin chops, rack of lamb, leg roasts, spare ribs, etc.). Please order at least 3 weeks in advance.