Our approach builds on the traditions of the salt marshes, where we learned our trade at the old school. Even if we need to integrate external elements to develop, we never forget or minimise the dozens of generations of salt workers who came before us. How can we know where we are going if we don't know where we come from?
There are difficult things to live through, like having your land, history, values, identity stolen. For example, the people of the marshes have always had codes, and words which belong to them: the word "fleur de sel" (flower of salt) has been used for a long time, but only to communicate with the outside world, who didn't necessarily know the less explicit words "sel blanc" (white salt) or "sel menu" (thin salt) used in the marshes. The word "oeillet" (from a poor translation of the Breton word "lagat" meaning small pond but also "oeil" (eye)) was only used to communicate with the outside, as the word "marais" (marsh) was used to designate the harvesting ponds.
The word "salorge" (for salt store) was completely unknown 40 years ago in the marshes, with the word "magasin" (store) being the only term used.
The fact is that we are obliged today to use "foreign" terms to make ourselves understood.
Even worse, whereas the largest salt store in the marshes, built in Batz sur Mer in 1888 and which could hold 12,000 tonnes of salt, was always known as the "cathedral", it has now become the "grande salorge" (big "salorge") - a symbolic denial, which says a lot about the wish to remove from history generations of salt workers, who were attached to their "terroir" and traditions. Without their determination and tolerance with the outside world, the marshes would have disappeared.
My father said, "the marsh is a great lady" and we are only her servants, we pass, and if we have worked well, it will survive after us. Camille Nicol (my mother's cousin) was a bit bitter one day when he saw the state of the marshes in the Goival salt works, which he had left in an excellent condition several years earlier to retire. After he recovered, he said to me, "they will go after me". Camille died a long time ago, and the marshes are still there ! However whilst this area seems unchangeable, it is extremely fragile. It seems today to be physically saved, but for us it must keep its soul, by remaining a tool for work and production. Otherwise it will destroy itself under the feet of curious tourists, brought in by more or less motivated and persuasive civil servants and pseudo ornithologists.
We have always trained, helped, installed courageous and motivated young people, who wanted to live their profession. We have no problems to recruit them, as the waiting list is long and there are few places.
The continued existence of this exceptional eco system enables the existence of a remarkable biodiversity. The different salt levels during the year over the many salt works, offer a varied, exceptional biotope. But make no mistake, the most interesting life cannot always be seen, and the spectacular species that you are shown are often the most invasive and have only recently lived on the site. The indigenous avifauna of the marshes, present 40 years ago is now submerged by species that we only met rarely then.
Gwenaël Rio, manager and founder of TRAD Y SEL