Mickaël Poillion, farmer in Héricourt (Pas-de-Calais)”We must help farmers to change practices”

Based in Héricourt, a village of 91 inhabitants in the Ternois (Pas-de-Calais) of which he is the mayor, Mickaël Poillion, 44, married, three boys aged 15 to 5, took over the family farm in 2004. With his wife Céline and two employees, he operates 170 ha, including 60 ha in meadows and 20 ha of cereals in organic farming, which are used to feed his 65 dairy cows. A herd that produces, year in and year out, some 500,000 liters of organic milk delivered to a cooperative. Very committed to the agroecological transition of his farm, this farmer is teeming with projects. The last ? The creation of a “Stable of possibilities” which will allow him, he hopes, to make his own cheeses offered in short circuits.

What makes you wake up in the morning?

My cows! They wait for me every morning at 7 a.m. sharp, seven days a week, for the essential treats. It is both a heavy constraint, even if I have an employee to help me, and an appointment that structures my days. I get up because I believe that the extensive breeding that I practice, the principle of which is based on pasture, should be promoted over intensive breeding where the animals spend their lives in the stable and are fed with the best food. more often imported. I am getting up because I have the feeling that I am doing a useful job to meet the challenges of global warming and the preservation of the environment, but also that of employment in our rural areas. I get up to connect with nature and the seasons which are, for me, a source of energy and beauty.

How are the French from your farm?

We often praise the solidarity and conviviality of the rural world, which we contrast with the individualism of large cities. It is a myth. Or rather a reality that belongs to the past. I was talking about it recently with my 95-year-old grandmother. In his time, all the life of the village revolved around agricultural activity. This is far from being the case today. Many people living in the countryside work in the city and these neo-murals take little part in community life. The competition is established in the peasant world. Administrations, businesses desert the territories. All of this leads to a very fragmented rural world. We live next to each other, each at home. However, I have the impression that the need to meet, to exchange, to participate remains a strong inspiration. I noticed this when I asked a professional photographer friend to come immersed in the village. At first, people were suspicious. Then, little by little, the doors opened. And in the end, everyone was delighted with the album produced for the occasion.

What is your assessment of the past five years?

Personally, he’s pretty positive. In 2017, I initiated the conversion to organic farming of the breeding part of my farm and I obtained the label for my milk in 2019. Two years later, the economic results are there, not to mention environmental benefit. This encourages me to continue the agroecological transition of the 80 ha still in conventional crops.

On the other hand, if I look at the agricultural world, there is cause for despair. The classic organizations – the main unions, most of the chambers of agriculture – continue to act according to a logic dating from the 1960s. Technical approaches are favored in favor of a productivist agriculture which serves the interests of a few. We are told that all the problems would come from the evil urban ecologists who want to harm us. But this speech does not hold water. In any case, I see that this model which crushes people and destroys ecosystems is at the end of the roll. It is still necessary to help farmers to change practices. And there, the job is not finished, in particular for the State and Europe to play their role in supporting the transition.

A scene that marked you?

There are plenty. I recently went to Brittany to discover the work of a group of breeders who are experimenting with group spring calving. The practice is, roughly speaking, to produce essentially when the cows can be put to the grass instead of continuously feeding the pipes of the dairy industry.

I will also mention the initiative of friends who have brought back a wasteland in a popular district of Roubaix. This Trichon farm has joined a cooperative restaurant and two stores. This makes it possible to reconnect part of the population to quality local food.

In Héricourt itself, with two other guys in retraining, I embarked on the creation of the Etable des Possibles, which we hope to open in mid-2022. They will make bread with local cereals. Me, my own cheese.

What is most important to you in your profession?

This countryside of groves which is both my working tool and my living space. In the North, the Ternois is one of the rare regions where it has not completely disappeared despite the pressure from specialized crops of wheat, potatoes and beets. If you take the TGV from Lille to Mâcon, you will hardly notice any more meadows, trees or hedges, nor all the biodiversity that goes with it. It is a certain relationship with nature, the living, the beautiful that is disappearing and that worries me, because if our environment is not soothing, how can we live in peace?

What would be the first step you would take if you were president?

In the logical continuation of what I have just mentioned, I would declare a moratorium on any new construction of an activity or commercial zone. While waiting to engage in a collective debate on the right way to develop our territory to preserve the beauty of France from the ravages of bitumen and concrete.


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