Champs-Elysees farm organizers to take concept abroad

PARIS (Reuters) - The team who transformed the Champs-Elysees in Paris into a strip of farmland at the weekend to heighten awareness of the agriculture sector plan to take the concept overseas, the project’s designer said on Monday.

The Jeunes Agriculteurs (Young Farmers) union, representing 55,000 farmers under the age of 35, installed mini-fields the size of six soccer pitches along a km (half mile) stretch of the avenue to showcase farm production from lavender to livestock.

“We want to take “Nature Capitale” to New York (to work with) the farmers and woodmen of New York state, to Istanbul with their farmers, Berlin and other cities who want to welcome us,” Gad Weil, who created the concept, told France Info radio.

The two-day event, timed to coincide with a holiday weekend, attracted about 2 million people.

Farmers angered by a sharp fall in revenues have used Paris to stage protests, including a tractor-led demonstration last month and a protest in front of the presidential palace in December.

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The weekend event was reminiscent of a display 20 years ago in which farmers on combine harvesters cut a field of grain on the Champs-Elysees.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla made a surprise visit to the event on Monday, partly to ease tensions with the farming community.

Such a visit “is always fun, but what’s needed is that he listens to us and our demands,” said one farmer.

“The first message was to gather people around road art for something that concerns all the French ... the link man has with nature and to make a huge crowd smile with no incidents despite such a difficult time in the world,” Weil said.

French farmers have urged the European Union to maintain a strong regulatory framework for farming as the bloc debates the future of its Common Agricultural Policy, under which France receives the most subsidies out of the 27 EU countries.

Reporting by John Irish