Tuesday, 25 January, 2022

“Why I, a farmer, agreed to help Carrefour change its model”


Under the leadership of Alexandre Bompard, its CEO, Carrefour is committed to a vast transformation plan. The retailer aims in particular to become the leader of what he calls “the food transition”. To help him in this process, Alexandre Bompard wanted to create a “food orientation committee” bringing together outside and committed personalities. Revealed on September 2, it is made up of seven members whose profiles are diverse: Emmanuel Faber, CEO of Danone, Lucie Basch, founder of the anti-waste application Too good to go,Myriam Bouré, founder of the platform for short circuits Open Food, Jean Imbert, the media chef, Caroline Robert, oncologist and head of department at Gustave Roussy hospital, Maxime de Rostolan, founder of the Fermes d’avenir et de the crowdfunding platform dedicated to agroecology Blue Bees and François Mandin, farmer in Vendée. Meeting twice a year, they will make proposals to Alexandre Bompard and Laurent Vallée, general secretary and head of the group’s food transition. The first meeting is scheduled for October. By then, François Mandin, 54, who owns a field crop farm in Luçon, near the Poitevin marsh, explains to Challenges why he decided to help Carrefour transform itself.

You are a man committed to the recognition of so-called soil conservation agriculture. How did Carrefour approach you to join its committee?

I am vice-president of the Association for sustainable agriculture. I was one of the first farmers to develop soil conservation agriculture, which is based on three principles: permanent plant cover of the soil, seedlings without tillage and crop diversity. In this context, I have the opportunity to participate in demonstrations, trade fairs and to meet politicians. A few years ago, we started to think with Carrefour on the recognition of our work. One of them came to our general assembly last year and they offered to participate in their committee. I was a little surprised because I do not represent an institution but Carrefour wanted atypical personalities.

Why did you accept?

I have the impression that we are not part of the same world but after several discussions I decided to accept because I have the impression that we always speak on behalf of farmers. On this subject, I am quite critical of the agricultural trade unions. They say they work for us but in reality, those who drink are always the farmers. This time, I am given the floor. However, Carrefour’s strategy does not interest me at any time. I told them. I do not hide it. What I want is to carry my word, defend soil conservation agriculture and help its recognition.

What do you expect from Carrefour?

I’m not expecting change from them but, at the same time, if I have to serve as a foil, it’s not going to work very well. For the moment, I have a rather positive a priori. They seem to me to be of good will. I’m a big optimist anyway, maybe a little naive. I believe in small steps that move forward, very slowly. It is.

What do you think of the composition of the committee?

The first meeting in October will be a meeting of discoveries. I agreed to participate in the committee without knowing its composition. Now, I might feel a little out of step, especially in my analytical skills. I have a little fear but it is also a joy. I am not afraid of meetings, nor of failures.

What are your proposals going to be?

I want to show the reality on the ground, explain the impacts of such and such a measure such as stopping glyphosate. As far as I’m concerned, I use all the tools at my disposal, trying to use them as little as possible, and without touching the floors. I would like Carrefour to understand how it is agriculture that carries a strong human and environmental commitment.

Are you paid?

No. Carrefour reimburses me for travel and replacement costs on the farm during meetings.

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