Marie-Élisabeth Ravasse, farmer: “My farm is a laboratory for experiments”
After twenty years in the private sector, the producer took over the family farm, of which she converted part of the operation to organic.
At nearly 50 years old, Marie-Élisabeth Ravasse is taking up a new challenge on her own, on the 200-hectare family farm in Nangis (Seine-et-Marne), where she has been testing forms of agriculture different from those of her parents, since May 2021. A project that this former head of training at the French Basketball Federation (FFBB) had been maturing since 2017. If after fourteen years at the FFBB, she wanted other horizons, the situation of her octogenarian parents, eager to to retire, also weighed in his decision. His return allowed them to continue to live on their farm.
To understand how the farm works and manage it, Marie-Élisabeth Ravasse completed an agricultural baccalaureate and a BTS in analysis, management and strategy of the agricultural business, before starting out. “It is not in opposition to conventional agriculture that I took another direction. My father worked as it was done, at a time when France had to be fed. But today it makes sense for me to work differently“, she says.
The farmer began by converting 40 hectares around the farm to organic farming, and devotes a similar area to grassland. It has set up a synergy between cultivation and breeding of a hundred sheep. “My animals hardly ever see the sheepfold, which is quite rareshe points out. I do crop rotations on grasslands. They are composed of plants that help to make the soil alive, enrich it with nitrogen, before implementing a crop cycle (alfalfa, wheat, protein crops, etc.)The other part of the estate has remained for the time being in conventional agriculture, in contract work.
“I was not in the financial capacity to transform everything into organic, and I already have 130,000 euros in loans on my shoulders. Things will be done in stages, for now I’m between two models says Marie-Élisabeth Ravasse, who received an honorary loan from Initiative France, the business creation support network.
Since 2021, this associative structure has forged a partnership with Chambers of Agriculture France, to offer financing and support solutions to entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector. Thirty honor loan funds have thus been launched by the local structures of Initiative France with the support of the chambers of agriculture. In several regions, regional loan funds have been set up, and in 2021 seven million euros have been committed in this context, to support 298 projects.
Those of Marie-Élisabeth Ravasse are numerous. Soon, she will open, with other farmers, a shop in the medieval city of Provins, where their farm products will benefit from a solid exposure. In the longer term, she also plans to turn to agrivoltaism, “which will allow me to double my sheep herd and diversify farm income“, she hopes.
For the time being, this mother of a 20-year-old student does not pay herself a salary. “My farm is a laboratory for experiments, but many of us are currently groping. However, my system must be sustainable, so that one day I can pass it on to a young farmer. It’s a challenge, but the more I advance, the more confident I am.»