BIRD’S EYE VIEW
Ben Palfreyman takes a tour of an ostrich farm in Charente-maritime
For many years, the fortified city of Jonzac attracted visitors to marvel at its medieval architecture, explore its stunning château and wander along its criss-crossing riverside walks. Then, in the 1980s, the spa waters were discovered, and thousands of people started to make the trip to this spa town to take the waters in its troglodyte thermal baths.
If you were to travel just a few minutes out of town, however, into the Charente-maritime countryside near Guitinières, you may be lucky enough to spot the newest kids on the block: a field of ostriches.
Fly the coop Having been a helicopter manufacturer in the local area for more than 20 years, Ronauld Auxire decided he wanted to do something completely different. A trained chef, he started thinking about whether he could create his own range of products – and wanted to offer something a little special.
“Ostrich meat is red, with a fine taste. It is very tender and lean and is rich in protein,” he says. “It is also easy to cook and is best served as a steak, in a roast or on a cobblestone grill. It is simply delicious!”
Located in a quiet setting, the environment of the farm has been laid out with the birds in mind, Ronauld tells me, with the fields where they live located far away from any buildings so they aren’t stressed by noise. The breeding program avoids any genetically modified interference and in order for the welfare of the animals to continue in line with his high standards, Ronauld has offered to help and train the new owners from the outset. Also included in the sale is a website, a number of outbuildings, livestock equipment and vehicles including a backhoe and a quad bike.
The little grey To complement the ostrich farm, Ronauld also breeds snails – partly because the small grey Charente snail is recognised as being the tastiest, most tender and sought-after snail in France. Known in these parts as ‘ cagouilles’, it is commonly said that they derive their unique perfumed flavor and tender texture from the Cognac-imbued earth of the region.
The new owner would also be able to take over the manufacture of the various products that the farm currently sells – and, of course, there is the opportunity to grow the range as well. Currently, Auxire sells ostrich terrine, rillettes, liver paté and the huge eggs, while he sells the escargots frozen or canned.
A new home While they have loved working the farm, the Auxires are now looking to retire to the Mediterranean and have put the farm and their home on the market. The business and farm, which amounts to 6.5 acres of well-fenced land, is on the market for €429,500, while the nearby house, which comes with a further three acres, is on sale for €477,000.
The home itself is in immaculate condition and offers four bedrooms, a master suite and two bathrooms plus a well-equipped kitchen (for cooking up new recipes to sell in your farm store), dining room, living room and laundry. The house also benefits from a jacuzzi and indoor swimming pool – perfect for relaxing after a long day down on the farm.
The land is well fenced and offers the potential for added value including equestrian use or as a smallholding alongside the farm. Taking advantage of the Charente-maritime sunshine, the house also benefits from solar panels, providing sustainable energy to the property.
If you are looking to take on something a little unique, this opportunity could be perfect for you. The business is three or four years old, meaning that while it has been established well, and you could move in and continue from where Ronauld leaves off, it is still fairly young, offering plenty of scope to grow. And surrounded by the many wonderful local food producers that call Charente-maritime home, you will find plenty to inspire and assist you on your journey.
From 500 429, €