Istres is not only known for its beautiful parks and gardens, but also for its unique plants and wildlife, including the Plaine de la Crau area, the town’s northernmost boundary. The Plaine de la Crau is an arid steppe in the region of Bouches du Rhône, the only steppe-like biome of Western Europe, making this area very unique. It is bordered by the Rhône Delta to the west, by the Alpilles Mountains to the north and by the Étang de Berre and Mediterranean Sea to the south. It is the former junction of the Durance and Rhône rivers and later became an alluvial fan. It consists of thick layers of pebbles from the Durance River that were cemented by run-off water to form strong waterproof pudding stone.
Extensive sheep grazing throughout the centuries created a specific type of vegetation: the “Coussoul”, today downsized and broken up, forming the dry area of the Crau. The northern part of the Crau forms the area’s wetlands and is used to grow the famous “foin de Crau”, the first-ever AOC feed.
Situated in the middle of a migration route, the Plaine de la Crau welcomes nearly ¾ of the bird species living in France, making it once again an ideal place to discover and learn more about birds.
CANALS OF CRAPONE
Adam de Crapone, an engineer from the Salon region of France, changed the way of life at the time thanks to his creative invention: he redirected water from the Durance River using an ingenious irrigation system that was based on water flow (slopes) and gravitation. Thanks to his invention, he is currently famous throughout the entire region and many streets and squares were named in his honour. And as a result of these canals, the northern part of the Plaine de la Crau was able to be cultivated, producing the famous “foin de Crau”.
GROWING “FOIN DE CRAU” (AOC HAY)
Typical to Provençal culture, “foin de Crau” is the only non-food product with the AOC label. The bales of hay are strapped together and distinguished with red and white belts.
Widely renown for its nutritional value, this hay is a natural, appetizing, nourishing and well-balanced feed that is rich in minerals. It has remarkable nutritional values: rich in minerals, low in crude fibre, which allows animals to digest easier, high in calcium, magnesium content, rich in sodium, which partly explains why it is so appetizing, and has a balanced level of sulphur...
Also, each cutting has a significant and balanced variety of plants that is adapted to all types of livestock farming.
- 1st cutting (harvest in May) is rich in grass and used to feed horses and fatten cattle.
- 2nd cutting (harvest in June-July) is well suited for cows and ewes because it increases their milk production, while maintaining their body condition.
- 3rd cutting (harvest in August-September), rich in legumes and has a leaf-like aspect, excellent for ovine and goats by increasing their milk production.
A product that is truly the pride and joy of our livestock farmers and our land.