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Portraits / 29 Apr 2019
Maryline Sollier – portrait

In our daily life, we meet people whose faces are familiar and we think we know them. So as not to miss out on these fabulous people e com image created its “portraits”.

A PEASANT WOMAN

Maryline Sollier

“I have no regrets at all to have chosen this job. It is a beautiful job.”

Maryline’s farm is located at La Ginestière, down the hill from the commune of Saignon. We were first welcomed by the three dogs, who cheerfully framed the car from the entrance of the path. Then we stopped in front of Maryline and her son Nicolas, who were waiting for us with wide smiles.

MARYLINE

Maryline was born in Apt. As the only child, she started at a very young age to help her parents. At the time there were no electric fences, as a result her mother was occupied all day guarding their flock of sheep. Maryline took care of the housework : cooking, and cleaning… as well as going to school. In the winter, her work was lightened because the animals were kept inside.

When her schooling was finished, Maryline became a family help, but this job did not allow her to contribute enough to her pension plan. Besides, what she loved above all, were animals and nature. On the advice of her father, who was thinking of retiring from active life but didn’t wish to rent his land, she prepared to take over the family farm.  In 1986 Maryline took over.

– Should we say ‘chief operating officer’ or ‘farmer’,  ‘cultivator’ or ‘paysant’ ?

“I like the term ‘ chief operating officer ‘. I like to command, to be the chief, to be free.”

Her son Nicolas suggests in passing that the word ‘paysant’ contains the word ‘pays’ – which means country in French.

A FAMILY BUSINESS

Maryline has two sons. Nicolas who is 20 years old, inherited his mother’s flock of sheep and her passion for the job. When he was at school he often felt sick, but when he helped at the farm his discomfort disappeared. For 2 years he was a social helper. While waiting to replace his mother he helps at home, with the goat milking and at the market selling their farm produce.  Mickaël, who is 26 years old, inherited his father’s flock, and  took over the farm in Viens in 2014, after having been a family helper in his earlier years.

Maryline’s farm has passed from generation to generation since the time of her great-grandparents. Her grand-mother came from Montsalier, in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. For her wedding, her father gave her two goats as a dowry.

THE JOB

Maryline participates in Apt’s markets. From her father she inherited the location on the town hall square, at the Saturday market. You can also buy her delicious products at the farmer’s market on Tuesday, court Lauze de Perret. She gets up at 6:15 to arrive at the market at 7am, with her leeks, her turnips, her carrots, her squashes, her potimarons, her potatoes and her spinach. At 1pm she has lunch, takes a nap, then she leaves for a few hours at the cheese factory to make cheeses and to clean. She then takes care of her animals, her house, and the paperwork in the evening. On Sundays she cleans her house thoroughly. Her only outings are limited to the votive feast and the dancing meals of Saignon. Maryline likes to dance. She has never been on vacation but she does not feel the need, feeling very good ‘here’.

Her summer display at the market consists of tomatoes, beans, zucchini, eggplant, melons, watermelons, chard, basil and goat cheeses. Getting up early is not a problem, because on waking she looks forward to seeing her loyal customers again, who are very nice and some of whom are friends. She feels useful. Feeding people is a good job !”. At the farmer’s market on Tuesday she sometimes sees classes of young pupils, to whom she introduces her vegetables. Maryline is still stunned when she sees that some children do not know what a zucchini is. She deduces that moms must not cook, otherwise the little ones would see the vegetables in the kitchen. Maryline and her family are self-sufficient thanks to their fresh products. They have vegetables, cereals, eggs, cheese, milk and meat on site. They cook a lot. Maryline tried to sell meat, but she stopped because the slaughterhouse delivery, that is, the conditioning of the meat, was too expensive. Previously she sold whole beasts, then half-beasts, but it has become increasingly difficult because people are eating less and less meat. And then there are fewer slaughterhouses, because the job is too harsh.

Maryline is getting by financially because her farm is small and she sells directly on the markets, without any intermediary.

AN ALMOST EXHAUSTIVELY NATURAL CULTURE

Maryline favors natural plantations, by crop rotations. She does it out of love for the land. She inherited a healthy land and she wishes to transmit in turn a healthy and plowed land. She grows forage for herds, in the form of cereal fields (alfalfa and sainfoin). Sainfoin feeds the soil with nitrogen and suppresses weeds. She uses chemical products only sparingly to occasionally control Colorado potato beetles (pests that attack potatoes) or powdery mildew (fungi spread over zucchini or cucumbers). But these cases are rare and Maryline displays a perfect transparency about it. Her acreage extends on 20 hectares of cultivated or cultivable ground, and 20 hectares of flocks of herds.

FARM ANIMALS

Maryline’s herd consists of about one hundred ewes and sixty-five goats. She wanted to keep it to compensate for the possible years of shortage in case bad weather would prevent a productive market garden. She also has dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, rabbits and a pig. Each animal performs a function. Dogs guard either the farm or the flock. Cats catch the pests. Chickens lay eggs. Raffarin, the pig, is used to remove the whey from the cheese factory : the lactoserum, by drinking it. A lamb and a sheep even figured in Villars’ living nativity scene.

WOMAN AND PAYSANT

– How is it for a woman farmer ?

At the time I started it was hard. Since then it has improved. It was not easy to be accepted as an agricultural woman in the region. It was necessary to fight against stereotypes such as: the place of the man is on the tractor and that of the woman is at the manual work. I found my place because I have character. I was mowing, raking, I was packing the forage and I was driving the tractor. I was doing the job of a man.”

We leave Maryline under the happy gruntings of Raffarin. After having met Maryline, we opt for the name of ‘peasant woman’. A woman who had to defend her position in a predominantly male sector, and who has become a leader thanks to her assertive and independent character. Without this strength it is doubtful that she would have been able to manage the business of her farm. And a  peasant in the words of Nicolas : ” in the word peasant there is the word country “. Maryline is a local woman, proud to work the nourishing earth that sustains her and that she, in return, lavishes with her protective love.

Text by Sylvie Houssais – e com image – ‘reproduction prohibited, all rights reserved ‘

Photos of portrait and interview by Jacques Huissoud – ‘ reproduction prohibited, all rights reserved ‘

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