Our community, located in a small hamlet, accommodates 26 companions and has 3000 m² of land. The idea of having a vegetable garden arose 15 years ago. We wanted to improve our companions’ nutrition, while engaging in a reflection on sustainable development which goes hand in hand with our re-use and waste management activities
The vegetable garden stretches over 2000 m² of cultivated land, 500 m² in greenhouses (2 tunnels of 30mx9m). The community also has a dozen fruit trees (apple, plum and fig trees).
Three hives provided a little honey before succumbing to hornet attacks and varoa mites. They will be moved near to the second-hand shop in town. Seven or eight hens lay a few eggs. Last year a 6500 m² plot of land was acquired along the riverbank to breed sheep for self-consumption.
The community also has a 1000 m² plot of land to develop and has spread green manure on a plot in the town centre superbly exposed and protected by beautiful low walls with a nice well. This plot will be used in spring for crops that do not require daily care (potatoes and cucurbits).
Two companions work full-time in the garden and have received training in agroecology thanks to a volunteer, but also as part of an agreement with the CFPPA Ariège-Comminges. The community is committed to becoming certified organic. These two companions have taken over from their predecessors, who started developing this initiative 5 years ago. They are originally from Senegal and already had skills and a certain interest in market gardening.
Together with volunteers, they manage the activities themselves, such as sowing, rotating crops, harvesting, and so on. Most of the vegetables are eaten by the companions and the surplus is sold at a kiosk built by companions and summer interns at the bric-a-brac shop. They also manage a small orchard and a small hen farm.
Two companions are directly in charge of the project; they are supported by two volunteers, one of whom is a teacher at CFPPA Ariège-Comminges (Center for Professional Training and Agricultural Promotion) and a permaculture trainer at Terre et Humanisme, and the other, a market gardener. A third volunteer helps with irrigation and a fourth is involved in equipment maintenance. The management team monitors the project regarding purchases and organising the work. During peak season, a third companion helps, along with summer volunteers.
The agricultural college is helping us through an agreement (training companions, work camps in the community’s garden, pruning).
"Your children will accuse you", the beautiful documentary made by Jean-Paul Jaud on the harmful effects of intensive agriculture and on the positive experience of a small school canteen in the Cévennes area, which converted to organic food with a small vegetable garden for the children. We watched this documentary as a community during a monthly meeting with the companions. As a result, we voted on the principle of eating meat only at lunchtime, opting for good quality meat rather than eating meat full of chemicals twice a day.
A food committee was set up with 2 companions, volunteers and managers. The cook, who has been employed for 2 months, will join 3 other cooks from neighbouring communities in a training course on vegetable cooking, nutrition, etc. With the CIVAM (Centre for initiatives to promote agriculture and the rural environment), we will visit organic livestock farms in the surrounding area where we will buy supplies. The whole process will take place over the course of one year and support will be provided.
We started gardening very simply with companions who planted a few tomatoes and potatoes. We then recruited a young person, working in civic service, who developed the production areas and techniques, focusing on selective waste sorting; and finally we decided to make this project part of the group's strategic actions by investing human and financial resources.
We requested support for the project from Emmaus France’s agricultural committee, which enabled us to take advantage of subsidies for the acquisition of new plots of land, greenhouses and equipment. Then we started looking at fruit and vegetable processing with a trainee student in higher agricultural studies for 6 months, with development aid from Emmaus France.
We acquired three hives to complete this initiative. We will soon have a few ewes for the upkeep of the grounds and for meat production.
We would like to consolidate the team by hiring one of our gardeners; on another plot of land 20 km away we would like to plant an apple orchard; finally, we would like to develop fruit and vegetable processing as well as small-scale livestock farming and beekeeping; we would like to develop direct sales to customers.
We are starting to gain recognition for our holistic approach. The results remain qualitative: satisfaction of eating good products; satisfaction in seeing the gardening team build their skills and become role models; satisfaction of our customers who can find good vegetables, jams, chilli powder, and more at the bric-a-brac. The local council has offered to provide us with a shredder three times a year so that individuals can come and shred their green waste on our premises; this is also a form of recognition. In addition, for the last two summers we have organised a vegetable fair in the local area, where we prepare a meal with vegetables and fruit from the gardens.
These activities fall under an overall struggle for food sovereignty, sustainable food, environmental protection, but also environmental education as we receive groups of young people for visits and work camps.
“What a delight to see our cook, Abdellah, prepare dishes with a spread of beautiful, tasty vegetables (such as broad beans, roasted peppers, pumpkin soup).
What an immense joy to hear the second-hand shop customers buying our surplus vegetables at the kiosk (built by Michael with help from interns from Angers) exclaiming “My goodness, your tomatoes are amazing!”, “Your Chinese cabbages look beautiful!”, “I’ve never seen such lovely looking sweet potatoes!” And to see the grandmothers who order watermelon, green tomato, rhubarb or plum jams made by our volunteer, Irene.
Furthermore, our gardeners are proud to talk about their work and to show people their vegetable garden at the annual seedling barter or the vegetable fair held with neighbours in July. They have also received training in tree pruning. Maybe real professional opportunities will open up to them at Truffaut Garden Centre, or if they settle down, or with the community.
Now we’re mainly looking to acquire plots around the community to develop our production, diversity (livestock, fruit, and bees) and we’re thinking about processing our produce, mostly to avoid waste. This project could be carried out alone or jointly with other producers, to share investments and skills (autoclave, technician, etc.)
This project enables us to reach a new network of volunteers and to create a new image for our community.
We need to increase our cultivated land and improve our profitability if we want to be able to employ a companion and really make this a long-term project.