Nadine Darmont and Daniel Deprez never imagined that when they started their business in 1989 they would still be running it today. With experience and sheer hard work, they have succeeded in developing La Ferme de la Vallée, located in Velaine-sur-Sambre, into a genuine organic and local agricultural project.
“We started out growing vegetables, but people weren’t ready to buy them directly from the growers yet,” explains Daniel. “So, we specialised in ornamental plants instead. When people started going on holiday instead of spending time gardening, we went back to vegetables. Since then, we have gone from strength to strength.”
Today, la Ferme de la Vallée cultivates more than 30 hectares of land in Velaine-sur-Sambre, including 1.5 hectares of greenhouses.
Fresh and organic vegetables
Many vegetables are grown in the open air. Of the hectares cultivated, 12 are labelled organic. “We control weeds using mechanical tools. We don’t cover the soil in plastic anymore.”
Some vegetables going on to large retailers, such as cabbages and potatoes, are grown on more or less 10 hectares based on a sustainable agricultural model.
The tomato festival
In their greenhouses, Daniel and Nadine grow peppers, aubergines and, above all, tomatoes. For more than 8 years, they have specialised in certain varieties of tomatoes. “We select the seeds ourselves. Our favourites are heirloom tomatoes which have so much flavour.”
Thanks to their large glass greenhouses, they plant the tomatoes in March. Harvesting takes place between June and December. To celebrate this special fruit, they have created the ‘tomato festival’, which is held every year around 15 August.
This festival, with tomatoes in the starring role, brings people together around a bar, children’s entertainment and concerts. “Some events have already attracted over 5,000 people.”
In terms of production, any unsold tomatoes are turned into sauce, soup or other products and are on sale in the shop.
Closed loop operation
The farm aims to be self-sufficient. For example, rainwater is collected and recycled for irrigation; the soil is fed with organic fertiliser; crop rotation helps to avoid soil depletion.
Recently, they have been working on a mobile hen-house project. “The chickens are moved between the plots. They keep the soil clean and at the same time enrich it with their droppings. At the moment we have 190 hens. The idea is to reach 500.”
The eggs are sold directly from the farm.
Small, ultra-local shop
These producers have set up a small shop in part of the greenhouse. They sell their own products, but also stock a range from over 35 other local producers (bakers, butchers, etc.).
The wide range allows customers to find most of what they need in one place. “Customers really enjoy coming to the shop: they see the crops and the greenhouses. They also enjoy chatting to the producers.”
La Ferme de la Vallée employs more than 15 people in the project.
Eventually, Daniel and Nadine are hoping to expand the shop.
Monday to Saturday: 10am – 6.30pm Sunday 10am – 1pm
© Vidéo – Reed & Jérome Gobin