Sarkozys enjoy farm life on the Champs Elysees
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his singer-wife Carla on Monday took a stroll on the Champs Elysees, the Paris avenue turned into a huge farm to draw attention to the crisis in agriculture.
The first couple shook hands, petted cows and offered reassurances to farmers that their struggle with high production costs and tumbling food prices was taken seriously.
France's young farmers association brought in truckloads of plants, trees, flowers and livestock to Paris' most famous boulevard late Saturday to stage the two-day event dubbed Nature Capital.
Some 800,000 people turned out to see the Champs Elysees farm on its first day Sunday, according to police and organisers who hope some two million people will take part.
Sarkozy on Monday was welcomed with cheers of "Bravo" and "we need you" from the farmers who traditionally form part of his right-wing party's voter base.
"Look he's Aquarius like me," Sarkozy quipped after a farmer handed him a young calf born in January.
"I'm with you," the president told another farmer during the 30-minute visit.
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy meanwhile was given a quick lesson on cattle feed.
"The president has come to hear what people have to say," said William Villeneuve, the president of the young farmers' association who led the Sarkozys on a tour of the Champs Elysees gardens.
More than one hundred varieties of grain, fruit and vegetables were laid out over a stretch of 1.2 kilometres (0.8 miles) from the Arc de Triomphe halfway to the Place de la Concorde.
Cows, pigs, goats and lambs were also out on the Champs, but in small numbers with a view to showcasing some of the famous breeds such as the enormously fat black-bottomed Limousin pigs, prized for their meat quality.
French farmers are already a diminishing breed but one of the worst crises in decades, fuelled by falling prices and rocketing production costs, has further hurt the sector.
Sarkozy's government has offered an aid plan for French farmers with some 1.8 billion euros (2.3 billion dollars) in loans and 650 million euros in other support payments.
The president has in past months made several trips to rural France, visiting farms and trying to ease the anger of producers who say they are no longer making ends meet.
© 2010 AFP