Our host, Madame Cheng, was waiting there to receive our party of forty-seven. Accompanying her were Jean-Noël Herault, Processing Manager, Antoine Denni, Storage and Treatment Foreman, and Philippe Poirier, Industrial Cleaning Foreman, who were all there to enlighten us about their company: a company that in all probability had developed and sold the seed that grew into the very lettuce or carrot that was on our plate at “Le Petit Blaison”!
Their operation in La Menitré is especially dedicated to the vegetable and tree seed business for the professional market. The company has also developed a sector focused on tree and shrub seed activity, although the heart of their business remains in the field of carrots, Belgian chicory and lettuce, together with the majority of all vegetables usually found in Europe.
Once all forty-seven of us had been kitted out with earphones, jackets and toe-protector shoes, we were privileged to experience a one and a half hour initiation into their professional world. How interesting it was to discover details of all the processes involved to enable the seeds to be planted one by one and the research that goes into the production of the little seed packets we purchase. The efforts required to ensure only a wholesome seed is marketed were beyond our imagination.
The company not only complies with the regulations but additionally, by analysing the production before stocking and packing it, researches and develops hybrids to reply to the demands of market gardeners and “us” the final client. Their supplies are assured both locally and from overseas. The company has offices on all five continents. The history of “Vilmorin” goes back to 1773, and when in 2016 they merged with a Japanese partner, “Mikado”, they became the fourth largest seed producer in the world. It is with a certain pride we discovered that a world leader in their field is in our area. Over 400 staff are employed, many on a three shift basis for seven months of the year. Prior to various investment programmes around 1,000 staff were needed to ensure production.