Summer visit to French mixed orchard market gardening

During summer we visited 16 farmers who have implemented a mixed orchard market garden in the south of France. These visits gave us the opportunity to learn a lot about this little-known agroforestry system.

Apples, pears, peach, figs, cherries, apricots, plums, persimmon, azimine, hazelnut, pistachio but also salads, carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchinis, leek and even more in the same place, is it possible? Yes! In the mixed orchard market gardens we visited, farmers grow on average 11 different fruit trees and 34 vegetable species on fields that measure in average 2.5 ha.

How is it possible? They are convinced that the diversity of productions is the key to ensure resilience: the apricot trees froze? Summer vegetables will grow later and compensate the fruit loss. This kind of systems requires an important thinking to optimise the design of the agroforestry system and to integrate appropriate agronomic techniques. For instance, many farmers made the choice to reduce a lot soil tillage to preserve the soil’s life that benefits to vegetable growing and don’t damage the trees’ roots. The main difficulties they front are not agronomic. It is the access to land ownership that result difficult. Planting trees is a long-term commitment that is hard to conciliate with precarious agricultural lease.

Léa Garreau (INRAE)