Why the Paris farm show is taking on new significance in 2024

Ingri Bergo
Ingri Bergo - [email protected]
Why the Paris farm show is taking on new significance in 2024
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, at the Paris agriculture show. Photo: AFP

France's most famous farm show is always a huge event with a strong political significance, but this year it's taking on a new importance as a key 'showdown' date.


Every year, farmers from all over France load up their finest cattle/sheep/donkeys/cheese/wine and drive all the way into the capital to participate at the Salon de l’agriculture (Agriculture fair), which is held in Paris, at Porte de Versailles.

The event is a big deal, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators and a handful of politicians (more on them below).

But this year it has a little added brinkmanship, due to the farmers' roadblock protests that caused huge traffic disruption across France in late January and early February.

Announcing that he was called on his members to stop their actions, the head of the largest farming union the FNSEA Arnaud Rousseau said that he was happy that the government had listened to farmers, and had announced measures to help struggling farmers.


But he added a caveat - if the unions have not seen detailed, concrete plans that will address their complaints by the date of the Salon de l'Agriculture, the roadblocks could restart.

So when is it?

This year it runs from Saturday, February 24th to Sunday, March 3rd.

What is it?

In essence, the Agricultural Salon is a rare merging of French city and countryside.

For visitors, it’s an occasion to discover French farming, talk to farmers and see the products and animals up close (and to taste the finest French produce from wine to charcuterie, cheese to Armagnac). And it's popular - in 2023, 615,000 people visited over the course of the week.

For farmers, it’s a rare get-together for a profession that is normally spread wide across the country.


It's also a way to show off their products to Parisians and politicians, who usually see their finished products in the store and not up close.

You mentioned politicians?

As well as the highlight of the farming calendar, the Salon is a must-do event for politicians who nurse presidential ambitions.


It has long been the scene of political campaigning, with political hopefuls battling over who seems the most at ease petting cows and pigs.

France is a country with vast rural areas that prides itself on its cheese, meat and wine - goods that it can thank its farmers for.

However, farming has become an increasingly tough profession. Not everyone can make it work. There were 460,000 French farms in 2019, compared to 750,000 two decades ago - and this malaise fed into the recent farmers' protests.

Farmers work long hours and many earn salaries that are far below the French minimum wage. Two out of five earn less than €4,320 a year.

READ MORE: 'Farming doesn't feed us': The story of France's ailing agriculture

Ex-President Jacques Chirac was known and loved for being hands-on with everyone he interacted with on the ground. Cows were no exception. Photo: AFP

French politicians, on the other hand, tend to come from a certain privileged and urbanised background, with most of them educated in the same Paris-based elite universities.

This is the time where these same politicians get to show that they really care about the country's farmers.

The trend really began with Jacques Chirac, who was a huge fan of the Salon and made sure that he spent hours there, talking to as many people as possible.

In 2019 Emmanuel Macron made sure to break the official record of a presidential visit at the Salon, spending more than 14 hours inside the fair. The previous record of 12 hours was sat in 2018 - by Macron.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen has never missed the event in recent years, and many other political hopefuls see it as a change to demonstrate that they are 'of the people'.

This year government ministers are likely to get a frosty reception (even frostier than previously) if those packages of aid for farmers - announced by PM Gabriel Attal - turn out to be less generous than hoped.

Should I attend?

Yes. The Salon is a great day out, about far more than just politics. Prize-winning cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry, horses and donkeys from all over France attend, with their owners, bidding to become champions of France.

Equally important are the many food and drink stands - divided into regions - that show off all of France's best local specialities.

Traditionally the first weekend is when politicians go, the serious business of judging classes mostly takes place during the week and the final day is distinctly convivial as the farmers enjoy a bit of relaxation and celebrations (and trust us, no-one parties like French farmers).

It is held at Place de la Porte de Versailles (15th arrondissement) in Paris, easily accessible by Metro, bus or tram, open from 9am to 7pm each day.

Tickets are €16 (€9 for students) and can be purchased online (here).


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