Roger Mattel, 70 years of age, farmer in Les Contamines :
With a glimmer of pride in his eyes and voice Roger Mattel welcomes visitors to his Lair, proudly announcing that “you won’t see another farm of this kind in the vicinity”. Son, grandson and great-grandson of a local ( his great-grandfather founded the Hotel Nantborrand), Roger Mattel cultivates his garden and wouldn’t change his life for anything in the world. “This profession must also be a passion or one won’t last very long ” concedes Roger as he wanders around the barn next to his house.
As a child Roger helped his parents on the family farm. At the time there weren’t many cattle and to supplement his income he worked in the winter in the sawmill, on construction sites or in hotels. At the age of twenty he inherited the farm from his mother and he still lives here today, fifty years later!
Years have passed and the number of cattle has slowly reduced to twenty sheep and seven cows of the Abondance and Harris breeds. In the region this black cow with its strong character is famous for fighting. Every year contests are organized in the vicinity. At the village fete the cows compete to measure their strength in a duel that always ends on a friendly note. None of them get hurt.
Roger is a fan of the discipline. A dozen or so bells in his living room are a sign of past victories. “The tradition was born in the Chamonix Valley after the war” he explains. “In the 1980s a farmer went to Switzerland with his friends. They all bought a few beasts and took to the sport. It has become a reason to gather together, to share a part of our culture.”
Today Roger maintains his small herd for both milk and meat. He keeps one or two animals for fighting. Over the years he has witnessed the farms shrink in the area. Roger keeps going for the sake of family history, a history that continues today through his daughter who has recently started to make cheese!
Photos : © Zir