His mind soars and is set free whenever he is out in nature, working with soil. It is a liberating experience; a simple lifestyle that Pacific Islanders need to get back says Gilles Parzy. Gilles was born in Nice, France but adopted French Polynesia, specifically Tahiti, as his home. Gilles is an organic farmer, with 37 years of organic farming experience under his belt. He teaches organic farming and is a board member for POETCom.
Your organic journey, where did it begin?
It began on a small farm in Nice in 1978 where fruit trees and vegetables thrived. The land belonged to my father who was a military officer. I was the farmer. However, as it turned out, we were unable to agree on certain things. He wanted me to study management. I did and obtained my diploma to make my parents happy. But my heart was not in it. I wanted to farm. It did not go well with my father, and so I decided to leave. I wanted to go to an island. I just didn’t know where.
The stars led you to Tahiti.
Somehow a set of circumstances led me to Tahiti. I rented land on Moorea Island and planted vegetables and starchy root crops (taro, potatoes) that I sold to islanders, hotels, schools and shops. I did this for six years before I started a farm on Huahine Island far to the north because of the bigger land size. I farmed five hectares with fruit trees and vegetables, and I got a collection of taro from this period. I went all over the tropics to gather many foods eaten in the tropics. After some time at Huahine I decided to teach organic farming, and I became an organic certifier.
Where are you now?
I live 27 kilometres from Papeete along the west coast of Tahiti. I teach others to farm organically, for example, to protect crops from pests or how to select varieties.
Why do you believe so much in organic farming?
Because I like working with life and the soil is alive. I feel very good working with nature. When you have your hand and feet in nature, you have your hand and feet in the soil, your mind is free and that is very important for me, a free mind. It may be physical work but your brain is working for you. When you have to teach others, you have to prepare for training, I don’t feel as good as I did before because I’m not farming anymore. But it’s important that I share this knowledge and I only farm when I have time. Organic farming also preserves the soil, prevents soil erosion, and keeps the sea free of contamination.
I’m encouraging Pacific Islanders to come back to this simple lifestyle of farming and working in nature. It is healthy and you can also make good money from organic farming… Before organic farming was feeding the Pacific! Why not now? Now we have more techniques, resources and means for doing it and it should be easier than before. Let’s do it. This is a matter of survival in the face of climate change, and we have to prepare our own environment and build a new environment that can be resistant to climate change. This is a challenge and I wish all Pacific Islanders to take up this challenge.