I just came back from a trip to France with a wish: what if American farmers went into the tourism business?
Imagine comfortable accommodations in quiet, picturesque country settings, where vacationers awaken to the stirring of farm animals, take their children to witness the milking of the goats or cows, receive gardening tips from experts, explore the surrounding hiking trails and, at the end of the day, enjoy the produce–the cooking even–of their hosts. All this, and more, for a significant lower rate than if staying at a hotel or in a regular vacation rental. Farmers would enjoy an extra source of income while exposing the public to their work and lifestyle. Families would be given affordable access to a vacation filled with healthy, possibly life-changing, experiences.
This is precisely what the organization Accueil Paysan has been promoting in France since 1987. From the onset, their aim has been to connect producers and consumers with a clear view to build wide public support for sustainable farming practices.
You read this right : in order to join the Accueil Paysan network, farmers must abide by a strict charter that defines their mission towards the public, including the kind of farming they practise. This charter requires them to uphold the ten principles of “Agriculture Paysanne“ that lie at the root of the Confédération Paysanne, a French farming union co-founded in 1987 by José Bové and affiliated with Via Campesina, a global coalition of over 148 organizations that advocates family-farm-based sustainable agriculture.