Burgundians - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Burgundy's climatic and topographic variety supports viticulture (primarily along the hills south of Dijon and on the west side of the Saône River valley), stock raising (in the Charolais, Autunois, lower Morvan), silviculture (Morvan), and cereal and other crops (e.g., mustard, sunflowers) throughout the region but especially Côte d'Or. The Saône River and the Canal du Centre handle heavy barge traffic, moving goods out of and through the area. Wine, liqueur, and mustard Production are centered on rail lines through Dijon and to the south, while trucks move beef, eggs, and other farm products in southwestern Burgundy.

Industrial Arts. An area of considerable historic and Contemporary industrial activity is that of Le Creusot/Montceaules-Mines, which a century ago was known for the extraction of oil and coal that fed huge foundries, and now for the manufacture of sophisticated industrial ceramics. Variety also characterizes the industrial sector: the "company town" of Gueugnon (pop. 10,456) in Saône-et-Loire is internationally known for cold-rolled stainless steel production and is home to a hat-manufacturing company; 16 kilometers south, past farms raising Charolais beef cattle, the Loire River town of Digoin (pop. 11,341) produces a substantial portion of the country's dinnerware.

Division of Labor and Land Tenure. The presence of women has always been important in agricultural enterprises, where besides traditional household duties women undertake nearly every task on the farm except fieldwork. In recent years they have even sold stock at the weekly cattle market in Sainte Christophe-en-Brionnais, long a bastion of exclusively male activity. Since the beginning of the rural exodus in the last century, women have joined the industrial and commercial workforce in increasing numbers. Many farm families partake of both worlds: family members cooperate to keep up with farm duties while maintaining industrial or commercial jobs in nearby towns. The presence of small industrial towns in an otherwise rural landscape underscores the marked heterogeneity of Burgundy and the variety of economic and Social options it generates. Although few landless farm laborers remain, as a dual result of agricultural mechanization and the lure of higher-paying industrial jobs, the agricultural population has stabilized in the past few decades, thanks both to government farm subsidies and to effective competition by French agriculturalists in the international marketplace. This favorable economic climate has enabled many farms to keep operating and remain in the family, although in less desirable agricultural areas (e.g., Morvan highlands) the visitor is struck by the number of abandoned dwellings. Rarely, However, is the land out of production, even in these areas; it is rented (or purchased) and often farmed collectively by relatives from a nearby farmstead.


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