InvestigationForty years after the struggle that left a lasting mark on the Larzac plateau in Aveyron, young peasants continue to settle there thanks to a land system that is unique in France. From generation to generation, the transmission works quite well, despite a few hiccups.
It could be the image of a Gallic village, ten times the size of Paris. A limestone causse as far as the eye can see, at the crossroads of Aveyron, Gard and Hérault. A scarred plateau from north to south by the holiday motorway, the A75, which links Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers. Seen from the road, not a living soul, just sheep grazing here and there. The calm is deceptive, because since the struggle of the 1970s, the effervescence has never left the Larzac plateau. Less than 7,000 people live over these 1,000 km2, but the places are expensive, and the candidates for a change of life outnumber the available land.
Scattered tens of kilometers from each other, new peasants have settled there, going against the general trend. When traditional agriculture suffers from structural malaise, when 50% of Aveyron farmers will retire without a successor in ten years, they are happy to remain the laboratory of another form of peasantry. The very choice of the word “peasant” is claimed there. On the Larzac, long devoted to the production of sheep’s milk for the Roquefort industry, aubrac cows, alpacas and even llamas are now reared. Craft breweries have flourished, such as workshops for making cheese, aperitifs, essential oils and saffron cultivation.
As a society in society, Larzac had more peasants in 2021 than in the 1970s. This situation, far from being frequent elsewhere, is the legacy of the struggle that marked the region from 1971 to 1981, when it s he was trying to oppose the extension of a military camp. “If we settle here, we are necessarily in line, political and agricultural, with what happened there”, testifies Marion Renoud-Lias, agricultural engineer who took over an aromatics farm in 2016. Bound by the collective energy of the struggle, the current peasants above all enjoy a sacred legacy: a land system still unique in France. Observed closely, in particular by the militants of the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, near Nantes, the model has never been copied. Locally, the peasant activists like to say that, in their case, all the stars were aligned: committed “big mouths” and nationalized lands.
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“Here, it’s easy to be a peasant, recognizes Julien Bernard, installed on the GAEC (Groupement agricole d ‘exploitation en commun) des Truels, in Millau, where he grew up during the struggle in a squatted hamlet. I would never have bought land owned: going into debt over twenty years is not my choice of life. “ Everything changed in 1985, when the State acceded to the peasants’ request to make Larzac a land laboratory by transferring the management of its land to the Civil Society of Larzac Lands (SCTL), which had just been created.
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