We currently offer Fedex Ground Shipping to the following states: WA, OR, ID, CA, NV, NM, AK, ND, NH, & DC.  Check back for more states soon.

Cider Producer Awarded France's Highest Civilian Honor

by Joan Kitterman May 01, 2018

Cider Producer Awarded France's Highest Civilian Honor

Marie-Agnes Hérout of Hérout à Auvers and producer of Cotentin AOC cider was recently recognized by the government of France for her tireless pursuit of an appellation d'origine controlée (AOC) for France's Cotentin Peninsula.  She received the medal of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, France's highest civilian honor, from the hands of Madame Neisson. Hérout's work encompassed 16 years of meticulous research on the terroir of the Cotentin: the soil, the climate, the flora and fauna and of course, the apple orchards and varieties of apples.  She interviewed dozens of Cotentin producers, recording their approach to cider-making and captured the savoir-faire that comes from centuries of cider-making in the region. In order to receive the coveted AOC, she needed to prove that the Cotentin Peninsula had a unique terroir with a unique style of production that could not be duplicated elsewhere.  Her efforts paid off: in May, 2016, the INAO board awarded an appellation d'origine controlée (AOC) to the Cotentin - the fourth cidre AOC awarded in history and the only cidre AOC awarded since 2002.  Fifteen months later on Sept. 9 2017, Hérout was recognized with a medal for the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur (seen on her blazer in the picture).

We spoke with Marie-Agnes recently about her pursuit of the AOC and her prestigious award. 

Tell us about the Chevalier de La Legion D'Honneur. 

Voilà ce que la Chancellerie de la Légion d’Honneur écrit :

En France, la Légion d’Honneur est la plus haute distinction Nationale remise à des militaires ou à des civils. Il y a plusieurs grades (Chevalier, puis Officier, puis Commandeur, puis Grand officier, et encore Grand Croix : mais là on est mort !) Ce n’est pas commun et assez prestigieux !

Il y a des nominations 2 fois par an : au 1er janvier et au 14 juillet, validées par la Présidence de la République sur proposition des Ministres (pour moi, le ministre de l’Agriculture).

Le site web est très complet sur le sujet :       http://www.legiondhonneur.fr/fr/page/vocation-de-la-legion-dhonneur/70

Here is what the Chancelry of the Legion of Honor says:

In France, the Legion of Honor is the highest distinction in the nation given to military personnel and civilians.  There are several levels: Knight, Officer, Commander, Grand Officer and then the Grand Cross (awarded after you die!) The Legion of Honor is not common and is rather prestigious!

Nominations occur twice per year: the 1st of January and  the 14th of July.  Nominations are proposed by the Ministers (in my case, the Minister of Agriculture) and then are validated and accepted by the President of France.

Here is a link that talks about the subject:

http://www.legiondhonneur.fr/fr/page/vocation-de-la-legion-dhonneur/70

As you were pursuing the AOC, did you realize how important your efforts would be?

Je me suis lancée dans la defense du Cidre Cotentin un peu par intuition.

Je pensais que le travail des pommes et du cidre était trop banal, pas reconnu, pas valorisé, alors qu’il représentait un patrimoine réél, une tradition liée à des savoirs-faire et des pratiques encore bien actuelles.

Le cidre faisait partie de mon environnement quotidien, et pourtant je voyais mes parents travailler avec soin, j’avais entendu la fierté de ma mère parlant des ses propres parents attachés aux bonnes pratiques … une vrai richesse non valorisée, et qui perdait petit à petit de son attractivité.

L’industrie donnait une image très industrielle et ordinaire de ce produit. On arrivait même à oublier sa noblesse tirée de son territoire et du pommier.

Mais les évidences sont parfois bien longues à prouver. Je ne pensais pas que 16 ou 17 ans seraient necessaires. Mais comme pour le pommier, il faut des années de patience avant de voir la première pomme !

I began the process of seeking the AOC for cider from the Cotentin a little by intuition.

I felt that that despite being a significant part of the region's heritage and based on incredibly rich tradition that continues to be practiced today, our region's apples and cider-making were not being recognized or valued.

Cider has always been a big part of my life.  I watched my parents carefully practice their craft and I listened to the pride in my mother's voice when she spoke of the passion her own parents had for cider-making - a treasure trove of knowledge that was no longer being valued and was being lost, little by little.

The image of the cider industry today makes cider-making seem industrial and common.  It makes you forget how noble it is to be tied to your land and your apple trees. But sometimes things take time. Like an apple tree, you have to be patient for years before you see the first apple.

Did you ever consider that you’d receive Les Insignes de Chevalier for your efforts?

Non, je n’ai jamais imaginé un jour recevoir cette distinction.

En 2004 J’avais été distinguée Chevalier du Mérite Agricole, et en 2010 officier du Mérite Agricole pour mon engagement dans les organisations syndicales et professionnelles en faveur des AOC (Calvados, Pommeau, etc ..)

La Légion d’Honneur me semblait quelque chose de très loin, et surtout reservée à des actions très supérieures ! Et surtout, elle est en général remise à des personnes ayant achevé leur carrière … ou presque !

No, I never could have imagined a day where I received this distinction.

In 2004, I was awarded the medal of the Knight of Agricultural Merit and in 2010, the medal of the Officer of Agricultural Merit for my involvement in trade unions and professional organizations where I pursued an agenda for the AOC (Calvados, Pommeau etc.)

The Legion of Honor seemed like something far in the distance and especially reserved for more superior actions.  And it is generally given to people near the end of their careers, or nearly at the end.

What does this award mean to you?

Quand j’ai appris que j’avais été proposée pour cette distinction, je n’y ai pas cru et j’ai pensé que ce n’était pas justifié. Il m’a fallu environ 6 mois pour “accepter” cet honneur.

Parceque cela récompensait un travail collectif, j’ai fini par me faire à l’idée d’accepter !

C’est un grand honneur, bien-sûr. Et en septembre 2017 j’ai organisé une cérémonie de remise très simple avec ma famille, mes collègues cidriers du Cotentin, des représentants élus de mon territoire, et des représentants du ministère de l’Agriculture en charge des Appellations d’Origine. La médaille a été remise par Mme Neisson, qui fut présidente du Rhum de la Martinique en AOC. Elle-même Chevallier de la Légion d’Honneur et surtout une femme dans un monde d’hommes ! Tout un symbole !

Je ne voulais pas organiser quelque chose de trop important. Mon mérite restait modeste, et surtout il aurait impossible sans un travail collectif.

When I learned that I had been nominated for this distinction, I didn't believe it and I thought it wasn't justified.  It has taken me almost 6 months to "accept" this honor.

Because the honor really recognizes the work of a group of people, I finally accepted the idea.

This is a huge distinction, of course.  And in September 2017, I organized a simple ceremony with my family, my cider colleagues from the Cotentin, elected officials from the region, and representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture in charge of Appellations d'Origine Controllee.  The medal itself was presented to me by Mme Neisson, who was the president of the AOC of rum from Martinique.  She herself has received the medal of the Knight's Cross of the Legion of Honor and is a woman in a field of men...a good sign for me!

I really didn't want to organize anything big.  My merit is modest and it would not have been possible with the work of the entire group.

What does it mean to the Cotentin region?

Pour notre territoire, c’est une jolie mise en lumière, une fierté : la nation nous distingue !

J’ai croisé beaucoup de personnes qui, à travers moi, étaient fiers de cette distinction et aussi de l’obtention de l’AOC. Une reconnaissance.

Les maires d’Auvers et de Carentan ont été très reconnaissants.

For our region it is a symbol of light and something that makes us proud.  The nation recognizes us now! I have crossed paths with many people who, through me, are proud of this distinction and of the AOC we received.  It is recognition. And the mayors of Auvers and Carenton were celebrated with recognition too.

What did you do when you received the news of the award?

Ma première action fut de verifier le décret du Journal Officiel de la République ! (nous n’étions que 2 dans le département de la Manche). Puis j’ai informé mes frères et soeurs. Mon engagement est très lié à l’histoire familiale et à la fidélité à mes parents.

I first verified the decree in the Official Journal of the Republic (there were only two of us in the Manche department). Then I told my brothers and sisters.  My dedication is very tied to my family history and to loyalty to my parents.

 




Joan Kitterman
Joan Kitterman

Author



Also in Blog

Meet the Producer: Sasha Crommar of Kystin
Meet the Producer: Sasha Crommar of Kystin

by Joan Kitterman October 25, 2018

Continue Reading

Meet the Producer:  Pierre-Henri Agnes of La Chouette Cidre
Meet the Producer: Pierre-Henri Agnes of La Chouette Cidre

by Joan Kitterman April 12, 2018

Cidre Rose is just hitting the markets

Continue Reading

For the Love of Cider (reprinted from "Discover Magnolia")
For the Love of Cider (reprinted from "Discover Magnolia")

by Joan Kitterman April 01, 2018

Continue Reading