"Grape-picking against land-grabbing" by forty five degrees (Berta Gutiérrez Casaos, Lea Hobson and Alkistis Thomidou)

Sunday 28th of August 2022, Château d’Esclans, Var, France

Monoculture is the best friend of monopoly culture, this is something billionaire Bernard Arnaud and his LVMH luxury empire are very aware of, with the domain in the Var being a good example of it.

On the grounds of Château d’Esclans, they produce one of the most expensive wines in the world, a rosé called ‘Whispering Angel’; his 427-hectare domain produces 10 million bottles of Rosé annually, exclusively for export. This public figure and land-grabbing methods are the perfect examples of destroying the dynamics of territories, causing land prices to soar and preventing settlement of the small producers. Three hundred people turned out in the middle of the vineyards at the call of the Confédération Paysanne and Soulèvements De La Terre to protest against the hoarding of farmland by a privileged few. This action is a continuation of the one carried out on January 29, 2022, in the Jura vineyard, “Terre”, to reclaim abandoned land. As we were collecting the grapes and passing the baskets along, people were singing. It was such a joyful and powerful moment to demonstrate that reclaiming the space is not only an act of resistance, but it holds a relational power. People, re-enacting a traditional and common act, that of the harvest, yet this time transforming it into a gesture of agency. This luxurious grape, with vibrant purple skin and extremely sweet juice, was initially intended by Bernard Arnault for the production of the ‘Whispering Angels vintage 2022’. Well, not anymore! “we’re taking back the land and its fruits,” is the response of the farmers and Les Soulèvements De La Terre, following the harvest.

(…) Concerning the massive industrialization of agriculture, a silent concentration is taking place away from the cities. In ten years, half of all farmland will change hands as farmers retire. So this is a crucial issue: where will this land go? Will it be redistributed to small farmers or to large landowners who will use it for productive, polluting farming? The agricultural census data are clear: in 2000, the average farm size was 42 hectares. Ten years later, it was 55 hectares. In 2020, it will be 69 hectares. This represents a near doubling in 20 years. Over the last 10 years, the number of farms has fallen by 21%. This means that land is less evenly distributed: it belongs to a smaller number of large farmers. This is land concentration, to the benefit of big players like LVMH. In this period, the number of jobs in agriculture has fallen by 11%, a loss of 81,000 jobs. The already weakened farming world is disappearing in favor of land-grabbers and agro-industries.

After distributing 200 pruning shears, we moved directly from declarations of intention to action and began harvesting without further waiting for the speculators’ profits! The gendarmes who had followed the procession, telling us in vain that it was forbidden to enter private land, as well as the “pacific” (sic) security agents from LVMH, stood back. (…) Revolutionary movements do not spread by contamination but by resonance. We get together to understand the breadth of this territory and occupy it. Get our hands dirty and pick the dirty and flavoury grapes of Bernard. To understand the urgency and attention that the transformation that those land grabbings need. Privatisation not only of the land but the resources over and beneath it: water, soil, animals, and air. (…)

So... is this getting serious?

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