NAME: BERNARD Marie-Christine
BACKGROUND: University, Art history and archaeology
ACTION/SECTOR: AGRICULTURE AND LIVESTOCK Foie gras processing, ducks
My Background and Career
I grew up in Cannes and ended up with a Technical Baccalaureate as an accountant. My husband and I dreamt of living in the countryside, In 1981 my husband, who had been unemployed, set up a farm and created our duck feeding workshop.
In 1983, during the economic crisis in the sector, which is heavily industrialised, we faced financial problems: increase the number of stuffed animals, or engage in business transformation to maintain our income.
Our chosen option was to launch a déidons CUMA in 1989. When we created our cooperative, I was totally supportive and helped him while raising our 3 children. Now we both lead a CUMA (a cooperative that allows men and women farmers to acquire common material means).
In 1997, I was appointed president by the members. I am one of the few women at the head of such cooperatives, usually run by men.
It is the first regional transformation CUMA ; The cooperative enables farmers to add value to their product by direct sale (duck slaughtering and foie gras processing)
On a daily basis, the positive aspect is supporting the link between members. I often encounter the negative aspect that I have to remember the rules of operation for the CUMA.
In addition I am working on development projects and as they ask for a large time input, I have to deal with everyone and ensure they are motivated.
CUMA is built upon solidarity but it does not happen by me alone. I host meetings and I monitor economic decisions. I never take a decision alone.
I would never have got involved in that kind of so difficult project without my husband and the support of the other farmers and we also were supported by the local deputies who encouraged us but it took us 7 years to be taken seriously by the French administration who didn't believe in the project and tried to stop us in every way they could.
Now it's even more difficult because we are small and we have to struggle against big farms who do the same but at lower costs.
As a woman I didn't have any particular problem. People I met helped me a lot and I am very determined and tough. I have a good ability to learn, I listen and am attentive to others, I enjoy working in a team and creating partnerships. I know how to use the experience of others and seek advice.