Sunday, February 13, 2011

The only British snail farmer in France leaves the trade


The only British snail farmer in France leaves the trade Ann Parkes and her husband are selling their Provencal boutique hotel - and with that, France is losing its only British snail farmer.

Ann Parkes the only Briton who is a snail farmer in France is retiring and selling up.

When Ann Parkes decided to swap the elegant shops of Bond Street for the earthy delights of a snail farm in France, her friends thought she was mad.

Ten years later, Mrs Parkes, a former general manager of the jewellers Mapin and Webb, is a fully-fledged heliculturist – and the only Briton in France to farm snails professionally.

Ann Said:
"Never in a million years did I think I'd be doing this," she said. "Everyone told me we were crazy to even think about it.

"I had no interest in snails whatsoever. I'd eaten them many times, but hadn't envisaged rearing them."

With her husband Mike, 64, who also worked in the jewellery business in London, Mrs Parkes farms up to 150,000 snails a year on the meadow behind their Provencal farmhouse, which they turned into a boutique hotel.

The couple manage the entire operation themselves: putting the three-day old snails in the park in May, feeding and watering them over the summer, and then picking them in September. "Everything is done by hand, and it is very labour-intensive," she said.
But now Mrs Parkes is retiring and selling the business, and France risks losing its one and only British snail farmer.

The new owner of the property does not have to take over the business, but Mrs Parkes said they would be very welcome to do so.