Every year, French city and countryside clash together in a slightly smelly feast to celebrate what rural France has to offer.
Farmers from all over France pick out their finest cattle and drive all the way into the capital to participate at the Salon d’agriculture (Agriculture fair), which is held in the centre of Paris, at Porte de Versailles.
When is it?
This year the show runs from Saturday, February 22nd until Sunday, March 1st.
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
For farmers, it’s a seldom 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.
Macron has become an experienced cow petter after having attended the Salon years in a row. Photo: AFP
Who is going?
President Emmanuel Macron, for one. The French Premier will be attending the Saturday opening of the Salon, a visit that will mark his fourth consecutive visit to the Salon.
But all high-ranking politicians – especially presidential hopefuls – are expected to pop by sometime in the days to follow.
Far-right Rassemblement National party leader Marine Le Pen rarely misses the Paris agricultural fair. Photo: AFP
How important is it?
Pretty important, actually. The Salon has long been the scene of political campaigning, with presidential hopeful battling over who seems the most at ease petting cows and pigs.
France is a country with vast rural areas that prides itself of its cheese, ham 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.
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.
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 only time of the year where these same politicians get to show that they really care about the country's farmers.
Last year, 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.
French media have therefore been asking whether the President intends to beat the 14-hour-record this year.
How do I attend?
So if you want to experience rural France up close but haven’t had the chance to travel out of Paris yet – or if you want to scout high-rank politicians cuddling up to cows – the Salon is held at Place de la Porte de Versailles (15th arrondissement) in Paris.
Tickets are €15 (€8 for students) and can be purchased online (here).