© Regis Cintas Flores Pastoralisme (30) 0025 | Regis CINTAS-FLORES
ExploreAn ancient farming method

Sheep have walked the Crau steppe since Antiquity as proven by the countless Roman sheepfold ruins. It is still a prime land for breeding transhumant sheep in Basse Provence.

There’s no surface water here so wells were dug to give the sheep water and low walls were built to protect them from the often brisk Mistral wind.

The sheep graze in Salon’s Crau Verte meadows in winter (which are irrigated by Adam de Craponne) then in the arid Coussouls de Crau (Crau steppe). The flocks are moved to the Alps in early summer to graze on fresh grass on the summer pastures.

Pastoralism methods are taught at the Domaine du Merle, the Ministry of Agriculture’s official college. The property is a star in regional sheep breeding. Students study fodder crop production, transhumance and the potential uses of Arles Merino sheep (as a pure breed or cross) in an area covering 450 hectares (including 50ha of farmland, 120ha of wet meadows and 250ha of coussouls or steppe).

La salle Théodore Jourdan

19 pastoral paintings

Pastoralism artworks

A room in Château de l’Empéri is devoted to work by the painter Théodore Jourdan. He was born in Salon in 1833 and mainly painted sites in Provence, especially pastoral scenes depicting Arles Merino sheep. He left the town a collection of 19 large canvases alongside sixty drawings on display in a room bearing his name at the Musée de Salon & de la Crau at Château de l’Empé

Domaine du Merle

Just minutes from Salon outside town, you can barely see Domaine du Merle tucked behind rows of plane trees from the road. It’s easy to imagine how peaceful it is among the meadows, sheep and Crau coussouls (steppe).

Merle farm is owned by Montpellier Sup Agro and is a training centre, educational and experimental platform specialising in transhumant sheep breeding, water management and AOP Crau hay production.

 

La Maison de la transhumance

Domaine du Merle has been home to the Maison de la Transhumance since 2012 to “uphold transhumance and improve and promote knowledge for the good of society.”

The Maison de la Transhumance is in charge of the La Routo® agri-tourism hiking project. The French Hiking Federation made it a “Grande Randonnée” hiking trail and named it the GR®69 La Routo®. This agri-tourism route covers the old droveways and transhumance paths between the Crau Plain and Alpine valleys in Piedmont.

 

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