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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Life on a French Swine Farm

This past July I had the opportunity to intern on a swine farm near Auvers-le-Hamon, France. During the month, I lived alongside the Huet family who was the most welcoming and generous family. The family included Alexis, the father, Domonique, the mother, their daughter Anais as well as their sons Esteban, Arthur and Antoine. Needless to say, this experience was one of the biggest learning experiences I have ever had. I was able to learn about French agriculture and observe the similarities/differences to American agriculture.

The house that I lived in with Esteban and Arthur in France
While on the farm, I worked mainly with the sows and their litters. My duties included assisting with farrowing, weaning of piglets, insemination, giving shots and vaccinations as needed, and maintaining the animal stalls among other tasks. The Huet’s operation was truly a family effort with family members working directly on the farm and others working to regionally market their product. The Huet’s utilized the Label Rouge, or red label, program when marketing their product.

 Products with the above seal on them are certified under the Label Rouge. This program guarantees that its products have met a specific set of characteristics establishing that is of higher quality to similar products. Food products and non-food agricultural products such as flowers are eligible for certification under this program. In all that translates to about 500 products being certified under this program in France. For pork, some of the criteria deal with feeding, breeding conditions and age at the time of slaughter.

The most challenging and rewarding part of the internship was working alongside people who spoke almost entirely no English while I spoke very poor French. At the start communication was a big obstacle to overcome when trying to accomplish basic farm tasks. After a few days, we were able to establish a routine and communicate effectively through body language and the few words of French and English that both parties knew. Even though I was not able to have a conversation with the workers, I could tell that they truly cared about their profession and raising their hogs in a healthy environment was their top priority. This showed me that no matter where you may find yourself that producers in both the U.S. and abroad care about the quality of products that they provide to consumers and make agriculture a unique industry due to that characteristic.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns send them my way. I would love to hear them!

Signing off,
Wyatt Pracht

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