Agriculture in France

France is the European Union's leading agricultural exporter. Until the end of the Second World War, agriculture was one of the main occupations in France, which is why France was known as having a farming economy. Even at the end of the 1990s a third of the economically active population was based on France’s agriculture.

The importance of agriculture is also seen in the definition found in French dictionaries where agriculture is defined as the art of cultivating and working the land.

The French Agriculture benefits from a very important productive surface –around ½ ha per habitant- on top of that, France benefits from a very favourable geographical situation and relatively good weather. This explains why France is the premier Agricultural country in the European Union.

I have been told that it was only after 1945 that the agriculture changed in France by passing from a family production pattern to a mass production pattern.   These days French agriculture produces not only food but also produces raw material to be transformed into industrial products for human and animal consumption,  as well as chemicals, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and even biofuels.   The main produces in France are cereal (wheat and corn are the main ones), sugar, wine, milk products, fruits, vegetables and meat.

The farming population in France

The farming population has decreased enormously in France. In 1946 around 30% of the population rwere farmers while 20 years later the numbers had dropped to only 20% and by 1995, it had decreased to 2.5% of the total active population.  


This lowering in the number of farmers is linked to the progress in farming methods which it is in turn linked to an increase in production in the area.  Progress in agricultural methods meant better machinery, better quality seeds and industrialisation.

Some facts :


  • The number of farmers is only a quarter of what it was forty years ago. Today they only number 600 000 (one out of three Frenchmen in 1945).
  • Arable lands represent about 35.6% of the country’s surface.
  • France accounts for a staggering 10% of the global market and 25% of the European market for agricultural machinery.
  • Agricultural revenues are split between growing crops and cattle breeding.
  • France is the world’s 7th largest cereal producer.
  • France is the largest single recipient of financial assistance from the EU, receiving around €8 billion a year in direct aid, of the circa €50 million the EU spends on agricultural support.
  • Annual net production of beef and veal in the European Union has in recent years been close to 8 million tonnes, the largest producers being France and Germany
  • Two thirds of the EU’s cattle is concentrated in only three Member States - France followed by the United Kingdom and Spain
  • In France there are now more beef bred cows than dairy cows
  • According to the 2010 agricultural census, there were 515,000 farms in France, compared to 665,000 in the year 2000.


Life in a French farm

Click thumbnail to view full-size
With BrigthReady for a little tour
With Brigth
With Brigth
Ready for a little tour
Ready for a little tour
Click thumbnail to view full-size
the newborn: Luna
the newborn: Luna
the newborn: Luna

Times are changing

A few weeks ago there were several festivities around my area in Central France and I had the opportunity to review the old farming ways used by the French Farmers. Times have changed enormously and these days the work that was once made by several men and animals is now done in a fraction of the time by only one person and his machinery. But the ancient farming ways are still honoured at least once a year in the small villages of central France as a way to remind us how far we have come in only a few decades and to keep traditions alive.

Fete de la Batteuse in Chamorin

TheFete de la batteuse” is literally a day-festival for threshing wheat that takes place in Chamorin, a little hamlet near the village of Baraize in the Indre department. During the day festival visitors can revive old times looking at the exhibition of old tractors as well as several ancient machines restored and in working order. But what I found most interesting was the re-enactment of old trades and crafts bringing us back to the start of the 1900s in this rural area.


The festivity starts in the morning with an outdoor religious service followed by the hand reaping and swathing of the wheat. There are musical shows all day long until the end of the day which finishes with a farming style dinner and dance. The threshing machines are the stars of the festivity along with the work of the dogs rounding up sheep and geese. We also had the opportunity to see how cheese and butter are made in the stables, the best part was tasting the cheese with freshly made bread and a bowl of Mijot which is a mixture of wine, water and sugar with old bread cut and dipped in it. This mixture was the staple snack of the farmhands at the start of the century during harvesting times.


Fete de la Batteuse in Chamorin

Click thumbnail to view full-size
spinning wheelspinning wheeltraditional danceLadies drinking their mijot before they go back to workSteam trainDogs taking care of the geesewood cutting
spinning wheel
spinning wheel
spinning wheel
spinning wheel
traditional dance
traditional dance
Ladies drinking their mijot before they go back to work
Ladies drinking their mijot before they go back to work
Steam train
Steam train
Dogs taking care of the geese
Dogs taking care of the geese
wood cutting
wood cutting

fête de la batteuse

fête de la batteuse, Saint Agreve (2009)

More by this Author


Comments 25 comments

june688 profile image

june688 7 years ago

I like this hubs. And I want to be a farmer.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 7 years ago from France Author

june688: Being a farmer can very rewarding at a personal level. Each day ends with the satisfaction of having done some good work, of having spent the day in contact with nature. However, it is a very hard job that require endless hours. In average farmers in France only take 11 days off work every year compared to 28 days that any other French worker takes per year and only about 30% of farmers leave their farms to go on holidays; a small amount compared to an average of 60% for the rest of the population.


BrianS profile image

BrianS 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

We live in rural France where agriculture is extremely important to the local economy. Most of the land around us is farmed and the 3 main crops we see are sunflowers (my favorite), barley and onions. Although the local food markets are also well served by the local farmers and the produce is absolutely top quality.


wesleycox profile image

wesleycox 7 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

I was raised on a farm though very far away from France. I believe that farming has gone to big business. Though a person can own land and have a farm to actually produce a significant of agriculture from it the farm would need to be huge. America is also facing this issue. Great hub, I want to visit France now to see the farms and their methods. Maybe one day I'll go take a look.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 7 years ago from France Author

Brian: Sunflowers are so beautiful, they are one of my favourite crops too along with the colza fields. I really like to see how the seasons change in the fields, from straw colour at this time of the year to the lush green in the spring.

wesleycox : There's a huge range of options if you are considering a holiday on a French farm, from renting out a gîte where chickens roam free all around, to a full-on working holiday, where guests get involved in the farm's daily chores.


Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

Great Hub. I felt I just learned something on agriculture.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 7 years ago from France Author

Sandyspider: Thanks for your comment. I am no expert but I feel that I learn a bit everyday living in here.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

I was struck by how very similar the stats are compared to that of other developed countries in terms of the time period it took to go from 1/3 of the population involved in ag to what it is today. One of the biggest concerns I have for America is that we've become too reliant on getting our food sources from other countries. A trip to the grocery store shows most produce grown in South America or Mexico. Same thing for many other food sources, even meat and fish.


sibajar profile image

sibajar 6 years ago

Great hub on french agriculture, the photos are wonderful. The French countryside is beautiful


Princessa profile image

Princessa 6 years ago from France Author

Jerilee Wei: It is a complicated situation isn't it? I think it is good for South American countries to export their produce to North America. At the same time I think that it is a shame that North America is loosing its agricultural heritage. If it is anything like France, with time lots of species (fruits, vegetables and animals) will get lost because everybody concentrates in only those products that are rentable.

sibajar: It is beautiful indeed. I would say I was more a city girl until I arrived to France and fell in love with the French countryside!


cosette 6 years ago

what a wonderful life and beautiful hub!


Princessa profile image

Princessa 6 years ago from France Author

cosette: What else can I say? I am in love with France and yes, France is more than just Paris, France is a lovely country with plenty to offer for everyone.


sukhera143 profile image

sukhera143 6 years ago from Home

I like this.


H P Roychoudhury profile image

H P Roychoudhury 6 years ago from Guwahati, India

I am delighted by the information of agriculture that you provided so nicely. Thank you for sharing.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 6 years ago from France Author

sukhera143: thanks!

H P Roychoudhury: You are welcome, it is a pleasure to share my views on a topic that I find so interesting.


Vizey profile image

Vizey 6 years ago

Well Princeesa agriculture never been my favorite topic but this hub led me know on what ratio of agriculture is done. nice search.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 6 years ago from France Author

Vizey: Before coming to France, I had never been interested in agriculture or even gardening before! I guess I have changed a lot in the past few years living in the French countryside!


aquaseaCreative 6 years ago

You are making me want France now and I was busy craving Italy. Now what? ;) I love the slowness of it - still looks feudal almost.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 6 years ago from France Author

aquaseaCreative: LOL... don't worry I had the same thing. In actual fact I have been "jumping" from Spain to France and Italy in the past few years trying to decide which one is best. I've done Spain now, and left it from France and if things go well I should go and settle for a few years in Italy next. After that I think I will finally be able to make a concious choice of which one I will choose for long term setting :)

You are right the way of life around here is very slow and family orientated which makes it ideal for families with young children.


retirementvillages 6 years ago

i like this hub. i find it very interesting and it really draws my attention. i am now into agricultural investments and starting my farm life in the Philippines. i love living in the farm having lots of produce, fresh fruits and vegetables and the smell of fresh air. it's like having a healthy lifestyle. by the way, the photos that you used in here are very very good. nice post.


Paysd'OcProperty 6 years ago

It is sad to see so many of the French family farms disappearing. I live in the Lot, where family farms are still in abundance, but so many of the young people move off to the cities that the way of life seems to be fading. Village schools are closing, and life here is becoming harder. Ironically, the appearance of more and more 'neo-rural' families is helping in some ways to stem the tide. While it used to be that only retired couples would buy houses here, usually holiday houses, now we are seeing more and more families moving here from England, Holland or other parts of France. While it does put upward pressure on house prices, the increasing influx of full-time families is helping at least to keep village schools and other infrastructure functioning. Some are even coming here to take up winegrowing, small scale farming or self-sufficient lifestyles. A few tomato plants are enough for me though...


Princessa profile image

Princessa 6 years ago from France Author

retirementvillages: Thanks for sharing your Philippines' experience. I can only imagine how beautiful it is over there.

Paysd'OcProperty: It is interesting to hear about your experience in the Lot. We have a similar thing around here in the Indre with nursery and primary schools closing in the small villages.

I met a few English people who came to the area to buy a farm because they always dreamt about owning a farm. They didn't realize how difficult and how much work is involved in the day to day of keeping a working farm.


cressinia profile image

cressinia 5 years ago

France is a much bigger country than many suppose, about 5 times larger than the whole of the UK, so that's one big reason for its huge agricultural output.


Patrick 4 years ago

I live in Central Bretagne. I have a stock of sheep and I obtained a farm number when I registerd the sheep. Does this make me a registerd farmer in France ??


Princessa profile image

Princessa 4 years ago from France Author

Patrick: I believe that what you've got is a cheptel which is the number or identification for livestock. Am I right?

The world of farming in France is very complex, for a start, you must make a request for authorisation to farm to your county DDAF. Also, I believe that you need to be affiliated to the Mutualité Sociale Agricole if you are a farmer and to the Farmers Health Insurance scheme (Assurance Maladie des Exploitants Agricoles).

I would recommend you visit your local Chambre d'Agriculture, they should be able to orientate you with all the formalities required in your region.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working