The father of organic farming started in 1913 in the Somme
Raoul Lemaire (1884-1972), who died 50 years ago, is the inventor of a revolutionary agrobiological method. The genetic biologist gave France its best wheat thanks to his research in Roye since 1913.
” Raoul Lemaire spent his life as a warrior working for France and its agriculture, which he placed at the top of the nations. “, writes his son Jean-Francois, who dedicated a book to him. From the fight for good wheat to the fight for organic produce. The scientist devoted his life from his teenage years in Picardy until his death in Anjou on November 19, 1972, to the service of agriculture, where he wanted to respect the land and health.
For this devoted peasant, science should serve nature, not prevent it. A doctrine in the form of battle that led to the laying of the foundations of French organic farming. After the war, in Men-et-Loire, where he settled permanently, he had the idea of using seaweed, lithothamme, to fertilize farmland. A process that contrasts with the practices of industrial agriculture, then a voracious consumer of fertilizers and chemicals.
He creates an experimental farm that will attract scientists from all over the world to his work
However, even before the creation of this unique method that bears his name, Professor Lemaire cut his teeth in Picardy.
Born in Villers-Bretonneux in 1884 in a family of grain merchants and millers, young Raoul lost his father at the age of 10. To support his mother and older brother, he started selling groceries at the age of 14 and bought grain from nearby farmers.
In his rare free time, he devotes himself to his passion for sports. The cycling champion also plays for the French bare-handed pelota team.
However, at the age of 18, he contracted pleurisy and tuberculosis. His fate continued when he was hit by a car in 1907. After 18 months of immobilization, treatment based on water jets saved him. A revelation as he would remain an advocate of natural medicine throughout his life.
He started wheat milling and trading in Roye in 1913. After 10 years, he created an experimental farm and plant genetics station there.(1) his work would soon attract scholars from around the world.
One of his discoveries was almost revealed
The gates of the Nobel Prize
After extensive research, the royal scientist obtained the “double wheat” grain, which can be planted especially in autumn as well as in spring. This revolutionary discovery, which will save humanity from starvation, won him a gold medal at the general agricultural competition held in Paris in 1928.
They even consult him to be nominated for the Nobel Prize!
His work also led to the production of superior quality wheat, which was first christened “compulsory wheat” on French soil. In 1936, it employed 80 people.
His establishments in Roye contained 16 silos of 5,000 quintals each, which were later added by general stores in Amiens and Ham. A scientist, he was also a miller, baker and pasta maker, a result of his acquisition of wheat.
His bakeries in Roye, Paris and Versailles sell natural sourdough. But if the company thrives, its trade in good 100% French wheat always worries big importers who speculate on the sale of foreign grains.
Creation of durum wheat
Until then, millers had depended on imports, mostly from Canada, of durum wheat, which was far superior to local varieties. Raoul Lemaire shakes things up and it doesn’t take long for the state to get involved…
In 1934, he plans to build a pasta factory, but the law prohibits the use of durum wheat in these products.
Two years later, the Office du Ble created by the Popular Front forbade the same person to be both a miller and a baker. Raoul Lemaire is forced to divide his activities.
Other administrative obstacles, of which he always considered himself a victim, and then the 1940 exodus put an end to his activities in Picardy. He will not return there, he will remain the owner of the businesses he will lease.
(1)The plant genetics deals with the study of plant development.
(2)Biography of Raoul Lemaire, “From the fight for good wheat to the fight for organic wheat” (written by his son Jean-Francois Lemaire) is available from its author.
Information: 02 41 57 90 91.
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