Aveyronnais - Economy

The Aveyronnais economy is almost exclusively agricultural. Until the twentieth century, most Aveyronnais were subsistence farmers, scraping a meager living from their poor soil and hostile environment. Rye, chestnuts, and (from the mid-nineteenth century) potatoes were the staples in most of the department. The local economy was largely autarkic, with poorly developed markets and little money in circulation. Today, the economy remains predominantly agricultural, but it is thoroughly integrated into national markets. About one-third of the Aveyronnais labor force is employed in production agriculture (compared to less than one-tenth in France as a whole). Most farms are small, family-owned operations engaged in the intensive livestock production that represents over 90 percent of Aveyronnais agricultural goods sold. The Aveyron is France's largest producer of sheep, most of them raised for the milk needed to make Roquefort cheese in the southeastern Aveyronnais village of Roquefort. The single most important category of farm production is dairy products and beef, accounting for about 40 percent of marketed agricultural goods. Most farms produce enough fodder for their herds (although few sell cereals or forage), and many also raise labor-intensive specialty crops under contract to agribusiness firms (e.g., gherkins, strawberries, tobacco, hybrid seed corn). Although cattle and sheep have long been raised by those (increasingly numerous) Aveyronnais farmers sufficiently prosperous to participate in a market economy, neither beef nor mutton figure in the local diet. Virtually all farm and many nonfarm households produce for home consumption the array of pork and poultry foods (e.g., dried and fresh sausage, cured ham, pâtés, foie gras, confit [meat preserved in fat]) for which the region is renowned. The local diet, based on pork and poultry fats, is distinguishable both from the butter-and-cream diets in northern France and olive-oil regimes to the south. In general, those areas of the Aveyron that are ill-adapted to farm mechanization (e.g., Tarn Valley, Aubrac Mountains) or are only marginally productive even with modern chemical and mechanical technologies (e.g., the Causses) have been largely depopulated and abandoned as farmland. Elsewhere (especially the Segala), intensive agriculture requiring dedicated skilled labor and relatively little land thrives. With the shift to lucrative specialty production, the Aveyronnais economy requires and can sustain a variety of agriculture-related activities. Although about 70 percent of the Aveyronnais labor force now works outside of production agriculture, the overwhelming majority is employed in jobs relating to farm inputs, outputs, or the various human services (e.g., education, health, housing) required by a prosperous farm population. Other economic activities are virtually absent from the department. Attempts have been made to develop a tourist industry, but the area is too remote and inaccessible to attract other than its migrant native sons and daughters. Some remnants remain of the leatherworking industry in Millau and the coal and steel center around Decazeville, but these industries are virtually moribund. With the exception of the cartel of Roquefort cheese firms (the Aveyron's single largest employer), the food-processing industry is weakly developed.

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Apr 11, 2016 @ 9:09 am
Thank you for the wonderful information and insight to this region. My family (on my fathers, fathers side) immigrated to the USA from Decazeville.

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