INTERVIEW. 9,000 apple trees looted in Lavaur: “A commando of at least ten people” according to the director of the Vergers de Fontorbe

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“Shocked” by the sabotage of 9,000 apple trees, Lucas Crosnier, director of the Domaine de Fontorbe, is quantifying the extent of the damage. He believes he was the victim of a “thoughtful and premeditated” action, carried out by a “commando of at least ten people”.

After this rampage, what state of mind are you in?

I am very shocked like all my collaborators. Nothing can justify the destruction of another’s property. But we don’t give up and get back to work. Justice will do its job.

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Why was this conspiracy targeted?

In 2018 we decided to work organically on this 3-hectare plot. We have grafted the Ladina variety onto the vines. The first harvests, in 2021 and 2022, were not sold on the organic market, which collapsed due to lack of consumer demand. We were forced to commercialize them on the traditional market with a financial loss of 300,000 euros. So we couldn’t continue in that direction. In the spring we then grafted tall trees with the Candine variety in conventional cultivation. This new variety is resistant to scab, a fungus that causes brown spots which, if they grow, lead to fruit rot.

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Does the return to conventional farming on this plot mean the end of organic on your farm?

Certainly not. We will keep the 22 hectares in organic production currently in production with varieties adapted to this cultivation method.

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Are there possible ways of improvement with local residents and environmental associations?

Significant progress has already been made in recent years. I think of the 10 anemometers we have. They allow to know the speed of the wind and there is no diffusion when it exceeds the authorized speed. People and authorities can freely consult the data provided by these devices. 3 neighboring municipalities also have this type of system. As regards the transparency of our business, we are organizing, like last year, on 22 September, an open day where everyone can come, including our opponents. I’m sorry for this act of vandalism, because this month contact with the associative environment was renewed to discuss peacefully.

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You speak of a commando behind the destruction of the 9,000 trees. Why this term?

We are not dealing with a drunk individual leaving a nightclub. This is thoughtful and premeditated action. Those involved knew the precise location of the plot. They spared the 12 apple trees in each row on the side of the road so their transgression would not be discovered. On the other hand, they were well informed. In fact, the last cleanup job on this lot was Wednesday noon… and they came in during the night Thursday through Friday. To operate was a commando of at least a dozen people.

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What is the financial damage?

We are encrypting it. There are the trees, but there are also the 600 hours of work for each of the 15 laborers who carried out the grafting. These individuals despised their work.

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