, Atelier Luma

An excursion to Tour du Valat

On the 30th of June, some members of the Atelier Luma team went on an excursion to the site of Tour du Valat, a local research institute for the conservation of Mediterranean wetlands and one of our main collaborators. The Atelier Luma team has been consulting Tour du Valat for help accessing knowledge and materials necessary for some of our projects (particularly for the projects related to salt, reed, algae and botanical waste) and we were excited to visit the research institute and get a better idea of their work.

Upon arrival, the Atelier Luma team was greeted by the Director General Jean Jalbert, and over coffee and pastries the team was welcomed by several other researchers. After a brief round of introductions and an explanation of Tour du Valat’s philosophy and work, we were led out for a walk through one of the nearby research fields. Our guides helped us to interpret the strangeness of this flat and salt-heavy landscape, inhabited by birds, insects, low-growing plants and other creatures that are adapted to this relatively extreme habitat. The team continued the walk until noticing changes in the landscape – with a change in soil conditions came a seemingly abrupt change in plant varieties. This visual experience provided further insight into the truly unique ecology of the Camargue. Following the walk, the Atelier Luma team was welcomed to join the entire Tour du Valat staff for a delicious family style lunch in their beautiful canteen.

The second part of the excursion took the team to Domain du Petit Saint-Jean, near the city of Aigues-Mortes. This special 100-hectare parcel of land was recently obtained by Tour du Valat and is stewarded by Nicolas Beck. Beck, with the help of others, implements experimental programs of agro-ecology and permaculture that inform the grape production, sheep breeding, forestry, wetland conservation, and other activities that occur on the site. The Atelier Luma team was very intrigued by the pine forest and other unusual features of this land, and particularly about the role of agricultural experimentation in the context of nature conservation. We began to get a better understanding of the evolutions occurring in this field, as human activities are no longer excluded as something separate from ecology. It was here that we began to imagine an even stronger connection between the work of Atelier Luma and Tour du Valat. And of course, we look forward to returning the favor and hosting ecologists and farmers inside the Mécanique!

Words by Elizabeth Lara