A farmer’s life for me
If you’ve always fancied a life on the land, maybe a farm in the Languedoc could be your dream property, says Philippa Bowman
Are you looking for a business opportunity with a difference? It is more unusual to see rural and farming businesses for sale, but there are plenty of them and as long as you go into it with your eyes wide open and take the best advice, then there’s no reason why your lifestyle change can’t take an agricultural route.
Agriculture varies widely in the Languedoc, due to microclimates and the vast difference in the nature of the land. Within relatively small areas you will find green arable land with fertile soil, but then not very far away, dry, rocky and difficult growing conditions. For this reason, this article will look at some of the options currently available in the Aude and Pyr�n�es-Orientales.
Our first example is a combined olive farm and vineyard business close to Sales-le-Ch�teau, about 20 minutes north of Perpignan. Essentially an agricultural business, the accommodation is extensive but basic and functional, rather than architecturally pleasing. There are 40 hectares of olive trees, of which 25 are currently in production. The other 15 hectares have been dormant but restarted, and should be actively producing in the next two to three years; olives are not an overnight crop and the trees can take many years to establish.
The olives are taken off-site for pressing and sale as these facilities are not currently on the property.
Although a typically Mediterranean crop, the demand for olives has been lower in the last couple of years and the market has not yet re-established itself. Clearly, this has had an effect on the price. The other point to note is that olives are a notoriously labour-intensive crop for what can seem like a small return. Having your own pressing or preparation facilities can make it more profitable than using a co-operative, but obviously this can make for a greater initial investment.
As well as the olive production, there are 26 hectares of C�tes du Roussillon vines and the Domaine de la Chique is the only Languedoc-Roussillon wine to have been awarded the Reflets de France label by its largest client, Carrefour.
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The owners have made considerable progress in the last three years in terms of improving the quality and the volume of production, but there is still huge scope for development of both the olive and vineyard business. The domaine is on the market for €1,575,000.
Next, one of the iconic symbols of France: the sunflower. This is one of the crops of a business for sale between Mirepoix and Limoux. Unlike the previous farm, this one has a lovely old farmhouse, parts of which date from the 15th century, as well as numerous outbuildings that would be ideal for conversion to g�tes.
The current owners already do a limited amount of bed and breakfast, and the location is perfect for holidaymakers who want pretty scenery and lots of places to visit within easy reach.
The farm has land of 70 hectares, 52 of which are cultivated with sunflowers, wheat and other cereal crops; the rest is woodland and meadows. The farm would also lend itself to equestrian activities. The current owners are coming up to retirement and so the farm is now offered for sale at €1,260,000.
The next property is a beautifully renovated house with eight hectares of walnut trees, located between Carcassonne and Castelnaudary. Walnut trees are rare in this area so this business is somewhat unique. As with the previous property, the current owners have seen the potential in converting farm buildings into g�tes and already run two luxury g�tes, as well as an apartment (which is rented to a tenant) and a groundsman’s cottage.
The house is extremely spacious and there are still numerous outbuildings that could be developed. The walnut trees require a minimum of upkeep with a brief harvest period and then an amount of pruning and maintenance through the year. So this property would be ideal for someone looking for a self-sufficient lifestyle with g�tes and the walnut trees to supplement income. Being close to Toulouse and Carcassonne airports and motorway connections, it is ideally located for a tourist-led business. The estate is offered for sale at €1,575,000.
The last business is an organic vineyard. The domaine has been developed to include g�tes and chambres d’h�tes, as well as exhibition and conference facilities and a catering kitchen. The main house offers spacious accommodation and has been renovated to a high standard. There are two pools, one for guests and a private one, which has a fabulous summer kitchen and living area.
The winery buildings house all the vinification equipment and there is an ageing and tasting cellar as well as a sales reception. The buildings are set around a courtyard with offices and workers’ accommodation. Current production is around 110,000 bottles per year but there is scope to increase this, as well as growing the hospitality side of the business. The estate is set in the stunning scenery of the Corbi�res, just 20 minutes from the beaches of the Mediterranean. This property is on the market at €3,675,000.
If you are thinking about taking on an agricultural business in France you will have to deal with the SAFER. This government body oversees the running and sale of all agricultural businesses and estates. They are an exceptionally knowledgeable bunch of people and having them on your side can be a huge help. The agriculteur status of land is closely guarded in France in order to protect the countryside and rural enterprise. While previous experience is not essential, if you intend to buy or start up an agricultural business, you will have to present your business plan to the local SAFER office and demonstrate a keenness to safeguard the rural environment and to run your business responsibly.
As much as anything the SAFER are there to assist you and advise, which can be particularly helpful if this is something you have not done before. Clearly, as with buying or starting up any business in a foreign country, you will be well advised to do your research and take as much as advice as possible before following your dream.
Phillippa Bowman, Z�nith Sotheby’s International Realty, Perpignan
Tel: 0033 (0)4 68 57 99 06
Tel: 0033 (0)4 67 07 15 96