GALLERY: French farmer finds happiness in life before machines
When farm machinery revolutionized French agriculture in the years after World War Two, a young Jean-Bernard Huon turned his back on the new technology.
Half a century later, in a corner of southern Brittany on France’s west coast, Huon still uses oxen to plow his fields, determined to preserve an ancestral, peasant way of life.
On the small farm where he grew up, the garrulous, white-bearded 70-year-old and his partner Laurence milk eight cows by hand, grind flour manually and tirelessly collect manure to fertilize the crops that feed his livestock.
Huon’s manual approach to subsistence farming makes him a rarity in the European Union’s biggest agricultural economy. He shuns France’s hypermarkets, instead selling his pork, veal and butter to those who visit his ramshackle farm in Riec-sur-Belon.
“I‘m a happy outsider,” Huon said on the farm where he lives without hot water. “I’ve always managed by myself, I’ve never been rich but what do I care?”
“Farmers today have a lot more land and animals than me, but they’re not necessarily happier. They face a lot of constraints.”
In the last decade, he’s made some concessions to comfort. He switched from work horses to oxen that are more docile. More recently, as age imposes its own limits on his activities, he invested in two tractors for the heavy-lifting of hay.
His earthy existence resonates at a time when intensive farming is increasingly criticized and local, organic food supply is in vogue.