I moved in the Hautes-Alpes in 1982. I was an agricultural engineering consultant for three years – this job was mainly focused on matters related to the flora of the Alps.
During that time, I have put in place experimental génépi cultures in the Hautes-Alpes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence departments. I have done the first technical and economical study on génépi in France, after Italy (around 1975) but before Switzerland (in the Nineties).
Wild génépi is protected – picking is limited to 100 sprigs per person. Commercialization is prohibited, but distillers were exempted because there were no génépi cultivations.
Génépi cultivation lead to a very significant decrease in wild harvesting.
Funding for these studies were very hard to get. But I was passionnate about alpine plants cultivation. So I became a farmer.
I tried my first génépi cultivation at 900 meters altitude – it was not very conclusive, to say the least. I soon realized than I needed to grow it at much higher altitudes. I found a plot at 1,600 meters altitude, which gave much better results. But it still was not good enough – I had to grow my génépi even higher for maximum quality. In 1992, I bought a plot in Vars, at 2,100 meters altitude.
Even then, the cultivation of génépi remains delicate and demanding. I have experienced a lot of difficult and irregular years. I think it has only been a decade since my mastery of this cultivation has allowed me to have high-quality and mostly regular harvests.
But you should never take anything for granted. You have to adapt, to listen to Nature and not try to impose your way of doing things. And you can always strive for better quality: trying to get as close as possible to wild génépi is a never-ending task.
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We have been striving for quality since the very beginning. Going organic seemed like a natural thing to do. After all, I work in the middle of a mountain pasture at 2,100 meters altitude! I was certified in 2004. It was the first time a génépi cultivation was certified organic.