Saturday, September 11, 2010

Our lady of the granary

From a distance, and especially if the skies are misty or hazy, you could mistake this silo (granary) for a cathedral. It sits down in the river valley along side the railroad line that serves us. And although at times it looks abandoned, it is quite active in the harvest season.

The grain silo seen from the valley floor, just down the hill from our house.

Corn and wheat and other grain farmers in our region bring their crops here for storage (and possibly sale?). From time to time I see grain being loaded into railroad cars for shipment to who knows where.

A closer view of the silo, with a water tower on the heights beyond. The river runs by just beyond the little house in the foreground.

You can see grain cooperatives and large silo complexes like this one all over the countryside where grains are grown. Agriculture is very important in France and it's practiced by many small and medium sized growers, thus the existence of so many co-ops. Large-scale industrialized food production is gaining ground in France, unfortunately, but it hasn't won out yet. And for that we are very grateful.


  1. It's that combination of a strong tradition of producers' co-operatives and the average French person's suspicion of big business that has held out against the intensive industrialisation of farming I think. Reform of the CAP will probably accelerate the change in practice though. Broad acre farming will need even bigger economies of scale once they are no longer the main beneficiaries of subsidies.

    I am always amused that water towers are château d'eau in French.

  2. Large-scale industrialized food production would change the landscape tremendously.

    As long as they can survive this way they should do it.

  3. As they say, « on n'arrête pas le progrès. » The move toward big agribusiness and monoculture in France and all of Europe is probably unstoppable. There are just too many people in the world who need to be fed. And at lower prices, which probably means lower quality.

    It always used to surprise me when people in the American Midwest called these structures simply "elevators" — the descriptive "grain" was just understood.

  4. I didn't realise that agriculture in France was still so localised - very interesting!

  5. Grain elevators are a mystery to me. I'd like to go see how they function sometime.

    I hope that France won't give into large scale agrifarming. Those grass fed cows in Salers seemed like they enjoyed their life.

  6. I've always wondered why the term elevators was used for grain elevators.... is it because of something related to the growing of grains (somehow related to éléver?), or to mechanisms in the tower to rise it up and down (like an elevator?)?


  7. France could help a lot if they would stop wasting so much food.

  8. An amazing thing about grain elevators (silos) is that they are the precursor to "fuel-air" bombs. Every so often one of them will explode.

  9. Starman,
    Talking about wasting food, obviously you've never been in the good old US of A!

    Word verification is satis. Isn't that appropriate?

  10. I am grateful too, somewhere in the world this sort of farming continues.

  11. I'm like CHM — Starman, what country do you live in? The USA is by far the champion of waste, when it comes to food.

  12. susan, sad but true.

    peter, I agree.

    scottsabode, not as much as it used to be, but local farming is still alive and well.

    evelyn, there's too much competition from large market and restaurant chains. It's all too easy and convenient. Real food takes effort (well worth it IMHO), but there's too much profit to be had in industrialized process. And the result? French people are starting to get as fat and unhealthy as Americans and Brits.

    judy, I think it's because the grain is raised up (elevated) to the top of the silo and dropped in for storage.

    starman, that was tongue-in-cheek, I'm sure...

    john, uh-oh.

    chm, The people in the US don't waste food, they waste genuine imitation food product!

    michael, I know there are back-to-the-farm movements in parts of the US, but I think they're localized. And there is no way they can compete with the entrenched industrial food complex in the US. Too many big macs and lean cuisines.


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