Monday, 1 August 2011

A pick-it-yourself farm on the fringes of Paris

A common Saturday ritual in Paris is to head to the local supermarket to stock up on food for the following day, when most of the city is closed for business. There, under the florescent lights and to the beat of pop music wafting from the store's speakers, Parisians fill their baskets with whatever they need to get through Sunday. The lines to reach the cash-register often spill into the aisles, where people stand for what seems like hours, pouting, glaring and muttering under their breath as they wait to pay. For most, it is a tedious but necessary chore.

Yet for those who crave a little fresh air and down-to-earth fun over plastic-wrapped foodstuffs, the Fermes de Gally on the outskirts of Paris is an alternative.

A short drive west of the city, the Ferme et cueillette de Gally is a farm bursting with a variety of seasonal fruits, vegetables and flowers, where the public is invited to wade through fields of lush greenery and blossoms to harvest their very own produce.



Upon arrival, a bill-board listing what is available to pick and the price per kilo greets each person. Gally staff are more than helpful with virgin farmers, happily explaining how everything works (in French).

Before heading out to the fields, each person selects a sturdy green wheelbarrow, and a handful of biodegradable bags and plastic containers at the farm's entrance. There are also clippers available for those who plan on cutting bouquets of dahlias, roses or wild flowers in exchange for a small deposit.

A dusty dirt path leads to the farm itself, where aromatic herbs such as thyme, rosemary and Moroccan mint sprout from flower boxes laid out in rows, and the fields are budding with rich green heads of oak leaf lettuce, courgettes and small pink radishes.

For most city-dwellers, it's been a long time, if ever, since they last picked their own fruits and vegetables, and after the first rush of excitement comes the logical question, 'how?'

Not to worry, at the start of each plot of land is a sign identifying the crop and how to harvest it. For example, a sign for rhubarb reads, “Choose the biggest stems and tear from the base. Leave the leaves intact”.

To avoid over-picking, Gally employees keep a careful eye on popular patches of fruits and vegetables. Once they've been thoroughly worked over, these sections of the farm are closed off to the public. For this reason it's probably best to arrive on the earlier-side of things so as to have first pick.

Check-out is at the farm's entrance, where fruits and vegetables are placed on a scale and weighed, and flowers are typically priced per stem. There's also a beautiful market a couple hundred metres down the road which sells local beers, wines, pâté, cheese and produce, among other goods. It's a wonderful place to cross off those last items on a shopping list, albeit a tad pricey.

Tip: Save culling berries for last on a hot day. They tend to turn into a soupy-mush the longer they're exposed to the sun. If they don't survive the ride back to Paris, it's no big deal – they can still be used to make a wonderful fruit lemonade (which can be transformed into a summery cocktail with a dash of tequila) or a nice jam. Also, check the farm's website in advance to see what is available to pick.


Hand picked rasberries.


Freshly unearthed potatoes.


Newly clipped lilies.


Crisp, green head of oak leaf lettuce.

Ferme et cueillette de Gally

Open from mid-April until November, 7 days/week.
10am – 6pm (mid-April until the end of May)
9am – 7pm (full-season)
9am – Nightfall (end of season)

In the event of bad weather, call 01 39 63 30 90 for more information about the Ferme et cueillette de Gally's hours.

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