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Nestled in the heart of France, the Quercy region tells tales of resilience, tradition, and passion. It’s a place where nature’s ebbs and flows have deeply intertwined with human endeavour. Among its myriad narratives, the story of lavender stands out, tracing a journey of revival from historical dominance to near obscurity and then a scented renaissance.

The Quercy region is an ancient territory in the southwestern part of France. Today, it corresponds mainly to the department of Lot, and a part of the department of Tarn-et-Garonne. The name “Quercy” derives from the Latin “Cadurci,” which was the name of the Celtic tribe that originally inhabited the region before the Roman conquest. The Latin name evolved, eventually leading to the term “Quercy”.

The region is characterized by its limestone plateaus known as “causses.” These plateaus, punctuated by deep valleys and scenic rivers, especially the Lot and the Aveyron, offer breathtaking landscapes. Quercy is also known for its rich historical heritage, with medieval towns like Cahors and Rocamadour and prehistoric cave paintings found in places such as the Pech Merle cave.

The Lavender Fields of Rocamadour

Once, long before the bustling tourist hordes and the paved roads of Rocamadour, there was a monk named Alaric. Like many others of his order, he had come to this serene cliff-side commune seeking solitude and a deeper connection with the divine.

During one particularly contemplative evening, as the sun set over the cliffs of Rocamadour, casting golden hues over the village, Alaric had a vision. He saw vast fields covered in a purple blanket, swaying in unison with the rhythm of the wind. The fragrance from this dream field was so powerful that he felt an immediate sense of calm, peace, and rejuvenation. Awakening from his vision, Alaric felt an unshakeable compulsion. He wanted to bring that vision to life, to turn the rocky slopes of Rocamadour into a sanctuary of scent and colour.

However, lavender was not native to this region. He had heard tales of it growing abundantly in the regions of Provence. So, Alaric undertook a journey, walking for weeks to gather the finest lavender seeds.

Returning with his precious cargo, Alaric began his laborious task. With the help of fellow monks and even villagers drawn by his enthusiasm and the promise of a new future, terraced fields were carved into the cliffs, and the seeds were sown.

And so, the first lavender fields of Rocamadour were born.

Word spread about the miraculous healing properties of the lavender on these sacred lands. Pilgrims not only came to witness the miracles at the shrine of the Black Madonna but also to take home bundles of this fragrant herb. The village prospered.

The lavender of Rocamadour became legendary. Stories were told of its powers to heal both body and soul. It was said that the unique combination of the limestone-rich soil, the divine blessings of the village, and Alaric’s sheer determination had given birth to a lavender strain unlike any other in the world.

Generations passed. While Alaric’s name faded into the annals of history, his legacy lived on. Even today, when summer graces Rocamadour, the cliffs glow in a soft purple hue, and the air is heavy with the calming scent of lavender.

Tourists who visit the region are often unaware of the tale of Alaric and his dream, but they are inevitably drawn to the fields. It’s as if the spirit of Alaric still beckons them, offering moments of serenity amidst the fragrant waves of lavender.

Lavender’s Golden Age in Quercy

Endemic to the pre-Alps of Provence, the true or officinal lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) found its second home on the rocky, limestone-rich terrains of Quercy. Its adaptability to the region’s contrasting climate, marked by balmy summers and chilly winters, set the stage for what would soon become a lavender boom.

The wild Delphinensis variety, introduced to the region in the 1920s, truly cemented Quercy’s reputation in the lavender world. Celebrated for its exquisite essential oil enriched with esters, this lavender variant quickly earned the moniker “Lavande Royale du Quercy”. By the 1950s, the region’s lavender fields stretched as far as the eye could see, boasting over 200 producers and 12 bustling distilleries. A staggering 10% of France’s lavender essential oil hailed from Quercy.

The Quiet Years: Lavender’s Decline

However, traditions, no matter how deep-rooted, are vulnerable to change. Economic, social, and environmental factors led to a significant reduction in lavender cultivation. Once emblematic of Quercy’s landscape, the fragrant blue fields lay dormant for nearly four decades. But like all great tales, this one too has a twist.

The Lavender Revival in Quercy: A Scented Renaissance

With its undulating landscapes and deep historical roots, Quercy has witnessed the ebb and flow of countless traditions. And among these traditions, the cultivation of lavender stands tall, having experienced its journey of rise, fall, and rebirth.

Following a nearly 40-year hiatus, the lavender fields that once graced the causses of Quercy began to sprout anew. Local farmers found renewed interest in this fragrant plant, driven in part by the Chambre d’Agriculture’s initiative to promote the cultivation of aromatic plants, known as “PPAM” (Plantes à Parfum et Aromatiques). This resurgence of interest wasn’t limited to lavender alone – lavandin and thyme were also in the spotlight.

Venture into the dry heaths of Limogne, Rocamadour, or Martel, and you’ll likely stumble upon the living legacies of Quercy’s lavender cultivation. Fine lavender, robust and resilient, can still be found interspersed among the dry, rocky terrains of the limestone plateaus and hillsides. These patches of blue, some maintained over decades by farmers and even truffle growers, serve as vibrant reminders of the region’s rich history. A journey back to Belmontet showcases the enduring dedication of Dominique and Maryse Thévenet, who, for years, cherished and continued the ancient tradition of lavender cultivation and distillation.

Endemic to the pre-Alps of Provence, the true or officinal lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) finds its ideal home on the rocky, dry limestone soils of Quercy. The region’s contrasting climate – hot summers juxtaposed with cold winters – is perfect for this “blue gold”. It was in the 1920s that a wild variety, Delphinensis, was selected and introduced to Quercy. This strain produced an exceptional essential oil, noted for its rich ester content and unparalleled fragrance. It wasn’t long before Quercy’s lavender was celebrated as the “grand cru”, akin to the renowned wine-producing regions. Such was its prestige that the title “Lavande Royale du Quercy” was registered!

The 1950s saw a lavender boom in Quercy, with over 200 producers, 12 distilleries, and around fifty towns partaking in its cultivation. Quercy produced a staggering 10% of the nation’s essential oil at its zenith.

Today, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, lavender is experiencing a heartfelt renaissance on the arid causses of Quercy. Passionate lavender growers have been instrumental in this revival, with a deep reverence for the land and its legacy. Depending on the weather, the Quercy landscapes are transformed from mid-June to mid-July, as lavender fields bloom in radiant hues. Every path trodden is an invitation to wonder and delight.

Following harvest, the lavender stems are meticulously sun-dried for 24 to 48 hours, then distilled to extract the coveted essential oil and floral water. Farms like Lacontal in Touffailles, Vanadal in Escamps, and the well-known Ferme des Alix in Rocamadour open their doors, inviting visitors for discovery workshops.

Touted as the “cure-all”, officinal lavender essential oil boasts over 300 active compounds. Whether used as a relaxant, antiseptic, insect repellent, or for its myriad other benefits, lavender is truly versatile. In Quercy, the diverse range of lavender products, from essential oils to candies and soaps, can be found directly at the producers’ boutiques or online.

Lavender finds its way from fields to feasts in a region like Lot, where gastronomy is celebrated. Whether it’s a homemade lemonade infused with lavender syrup, a tartine of Rocamadour cheese drizzled with lavender honey, Quercy lamb encrusted with lavender, or a delicate egg cream flavoured with lavender essential oil – the culinary possibilities are endless.

The resurgence of lavender in Quercy is not just a nod to the past; it’s a testament to the region’s resilience, adaptability, and unyielding spirit. The scent of lavender, interwoven with the very fabric of Quercy, promises a fragrant future.

The Legacy of Ferme des Alix: A Tale of Lavender and Timeless Traditions


The picturesque lands just 2 km from the famous pilgrimage city of Rocamadour stand as a testament to time, faith, and agriculture – the Ferme des Alix. Its roots trace back to around 1145 when the monks of Obazine in Corrèze founded the storied “Cistercian barn” of Alix. By the end of the 13th century, this once-modest establishment had blossomed into a thriving small town centred around its priory, with a parish gathered around its chapel dedicated to Saint Etienne.

La Ferme des Alix: An ever-evolving history about passion and know-how

The tapestry of history weaved its course until 1930 when a new chapter began. That year, a family – whose legacy continues to this day – made Ferme des Alix their home. They primarily raised sheep, a practice widespread on the Causses du Quercy, owing to its adaptability to the unique living conditions of the causse.

Yet, as the world changed, the farm evolved. In a bold, innovative move in 2013, the family looked back to the region’s agricultural heritage, deciding to reintroduce a production that had almost vanished from their lands – lavender. This fragrant herb, an integral part of the region’s farming legacy in the past century, flourished in the local climate. The hot, dry summers and cold winters, paired with the limestone-rich, rocky soils, created a haven for various lavender strains.

Starting with a modest 4.5 hectares, they experimented with various varieties of officinal lavender, like Maillette and C1550. By 2022, their lavender fields expanded impressively to cover 20 hectares, with predominant cultivation of fine lavender.

And their commitment? ECOCERT monitors Organic farming meticulously, ensuring the most natural cultivation process.


To harness the full potential of their crops, they established a distillery within the farm. This allowed them to master every step of essential oil production, ensuring top-quality lavender oil. Not just limited to lavender, the distillery became a hub for various aromatic plants like thujanol thyme, linalol thyme, verbenone rosemary, and helichrysum. Each summer saw the distillation of these aromatic wonders, while juniper took its turn in the colder months.

Their efforts culminated in a boutique at the heart of the farm in Rocamadour. Visitors can discover products from essential oils and shea butter to perfumed candles, floral water, chocolates, honey, mosquito repellent lotions, and soaps. A sensory journey awaits those who step into the Ferme des Alix, offering a taste and scent of the farm’s essence.

Thus, Ferme des Alix, with its rich history and innovative spirit, stands as a beacon of tradition meeting modernity, drawing visitors into its aromatic embrace and telling a story of family, dedication, and the magic of lavender.

Embark on a Digital Quest at Ferme des Alix – the Explor Games®

Dive deep into the heart of Quercy’s lavender with a thrilling and unprecedented activity launched at Ferme des Alix. Introducing the Explor Games® – a digital fusion of treasure hunting, escape room logic, and navigational challenges, all wrapped in an immersive outdoor adventure spanning around 1 hour 45 minutes. Using a digital tablet, players, whether family, friends or colleagues, will journey through the farm, gaining insights into the enchanting world of Alix’s lavender.

Source: Ferme des Alix Youtube channel

The Elixir of Alix: An Adventure Through Time
As the game unfolds, you’ll be transported to the mesmerizing backdrop of the Ferme des Alix. Here, the lavender fields blend seamlessly with the historic Cistercian heritage of the Alix hamlet. The narrative-driven game, “L’Elixir des Alix,” casts you as the hero of an incredible time-travelling saga. While on a seemingly routine visit to the lavender distillery, you and your guide, Alix, are suddenly plunged a millennium back to the medieval era.

Awakening in a familiar and foreign land, you quickly discover a village in distress. As darkness descends, a sinister force wreaks havoc, ransacking barns, releasing livestock, and plundering homes. The cycle of destruction repeats night after night, leaving the villagers exhausted and their beloved village under threat.

Bound by your unexpected journey and a shared desire to restore peace, you and Alix realize that the village’s woes might hold the key to your return to the present day. The intertwined fates beckon you to act. Embark on a mission across the picturesque landscapes of Ferme des Alix. Engage with the village’s charismatic inhabitants, traverse lavender fields, delve into the Cistercian legacy, explore the distillery, and stand in awe before Quercy’s iconic dry-stone walls. Unearth the hamlet’s deep-seated secrets, confront the lurking menace, and strive to save the village and your place in time.

Conclusion: Towards a Fragrant and Bright Future for Quercy

The saga of Lavender in Quercy is a story of love, perseverance, and revival. It is a resounding tribute to the region’s unyielding spirit and adaptability. In an era where the world is rediscovering the richness of natural remedies, lavender emerges as a jewel. Its presence is felt well beyond the markets and gardens of France, playing an instrumental role in the booming interest in aromatherapy. Nowadays, increasing numbers of individuals are turning to aromatherapy for relaxation, healing, and well-being, and lavender, with its myriad virtues, often stands at the heart of this practice.

Amidst this global resurgence of lavender, Quercy finds its place of honour. The purple fields of Quercy, teeming with life and history, pay homage to a storied past and sketch out a future where the sweet and soothing scent of lavender mingles with the air we breathe. The essence of lavender, with its ability to calm the mind, invoke memories, and inspire dreams, seems to transcend time. It stands as a symbol of eternal hope, a reminder that when nature is respected and cherished, it yields its most beautiful rewards. In the gentle whisper of the Quercy breezes, one can hear a promise: a future where tradition and modernity coexist harmoniously and lavender continues to touch our souls and delight our senses.

José Amorim
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