The farm des Roussets

« Be the change you want to see in the world ».

                                                                                                                 Gandhi

I am just back from a week at the Farm des Roussets, closed to St Jean en Royan. It is not a coincidence if I choose this place. It has been few years already that I am following more or less attentively the adventure of Batotopie Collectif in which my brother is involved.  Theses 6 Compagnons of REPAS network -Network for exchange and supportive and alternative practices- have met during their tour de France. They got on well, shared the same dream and the same values so they decided to do it: to form a collectif, to share their incomes, to buy a land and a farm and to produce vegetables, cereals, bread, honey and cultural events.

The Roussets farm the collectif and the functioning

The Farm des Roussets  is composed of 30 acres, 5 acres are dedicated to market gardening and the remaining is for cereals. It is also a mill, a bakery, a future honey house, 2 garages and a big hangar. And there is also the old manure which will be soon transformed into a shop and a venue. Of course there is an house: a single-storey with only a small part of the upper floor  converted into an office area.  The ground floor is constituted of a cold storage, a future vegetable processing area (currently the kitchen), a dinning room with a log stove, a future in kitchen (currently under construction) and a minimum comfort bathroom-laundrette . By consequence, the collectif members don’t have a house at the farm, they dispatched themselves between a yurt or caravan on the land or a flat in the village. The collectif is composed by 2 market gardeners: Annabel and Max, a farmer-baker: Nicolas, a beekeeper Nicolas and 2 cultural animators: Anne and Pascale. Moreover this year, Matthieu is joining the crew to work on the pedagogic side of the farm. Their way of working is in autogestion: no hierarchy, a lot of listening and goodwill, non-violent communication and all the decisions are taken unanimously.  They share their incomes and allow themselves a monthly salary of 600 euros. If there is some money left, it is re-injected in the farm buildings. They are hoping to reach 1000 euros monthly salary in few years time. The name Farm des Roussets  is grouping the agricultural activity ( GAEC des Roussets), the beekeeping and the cultural association Batotopie.

The annual general meeting

Two weeks before I came to the farm to take part to the general meeting and I have been impressed by the courage and the confidence in the future which animate the little group. It isn’t easy  to present the annual results of each activity after only one year of exercise! Here the numbers rarely overcome the thousands euros, nothing to do with the monthly results of the company I used to work for! They need to explain why for now not all the activities are  profitable: the first green house which flew away a day of extremely strong wind, a part of the bees which died poisoned by a fungicide the first summer; and all of that standing in front of the assembly. An assembly very active, avid to know about the way of life of the collectif and which doesn’t hesitate to share experience, advices and encouragements . The exchange between the collectif and the assembly is rich in this misty Sunday morning: « At the beginning our desire was to create a collective place and to make it alive. This place doesn’t belong to us, it has been bought of course with our participation but not only: there are many other contributors who bought some parts. The aim is that each of us feel home here, do you feel home? » asks the farmer Nicolas.

From dream to reality

From  dream to reality there are many compromises and challenges. » The group  is indeed a force which allows us to realise and bring to life some projects  «  explains Max. And the two Nicolas agree on the fact that  » We constantly need to make compromises between our vision and what is possible. For example when we started the project we had the idea to collaborate and help between the different activities to work together. In reality we don’t have the time to stop the work in the garden to go and help at the bakery , the be-keeping or the animation and the other way around … » Actually since the collectif is installed in the region of Royan they had to seek for gouvernemental and European financial support. Also they had to find some complementary job in order to not base the income on the uncertain results of the first years of the farm. Thus the cultural duo works in addition to its implication in Batotopie. Anne found a position of animator at the local radio: Radio Royan.  Pascale has on one hand created her own association of popular education: Ébullition , on another hand she is animator in the summer camp which takes place on their land.  » Before we were meeting altogether  for informal moments, games and a chill out week-end per year.  We don’t take the time any more » observes Annabel. Actually they all agree to say that since they started the project they feel a strong pressure of result and lack of time. They allow themselves only very few holidays, but they live accordingly to their values and it is a great pride.

A successful local integration 

If the reality is sometimes heavy for the collectif, it however benefits from a great local support. In one year the group has archived its integration.They are neither lonely, nor isolated but well surrounded by all the people who believe in their initiatives.  Indeed, there is not a day passing without regular or spontaneous visitors coming to give a hand or simply say hi. Les volontaires.jpgThe past week a friend of Pascale came to help building the new kitchen, Lucas was there to build a dry stone wall, Aurélien shared his precious carpenter expertise and Laurent was supporting him. There were also Michel who came few hours at the garden, the visit of Nadia who had the desire to do the garden while chatting with her friend Annabel or Zoé who joined Thursday afternoon to renforce the construction team. And of course on Friday afternoon- day of sales at the farm- the subscribers came to collect their vegetable basket and buy the bred for the week-end. Getting locally integrated also means to build local partnerships. For example Annabel and Max are part of a market gardener mutual aid where they share half day of work per week, rotating between the different gardens. Another example is the one of Nicolas who buys the wood for the bakery stove at a local fabric of garden tools handles. He also produces hay for a colleague who work with animal traction. This great team is creating some ecosystems at local scale. Moreover they already archived the bet of leaving together and mutual aid, a great work they can be proud of.

My experience at the Farm des Roussets

I spent a week with Annabel and Nicolas who are leaving in the yurt in front of the farm. I invested the visitors caravan and shadowed the couple in their daily activities. Finally I put DSC_0159my hands in the earth! I spent the first 3 days gardening with Annabel and Max. It is the occasion to clear from stones a field next to the greenhouse , to transplant the kales outside, to refresh the strawberry bushes, to collect  the leeks and the mesclun for the weekly baskets . An experience which makes me realise how physical is the work of market gardener who always work at ground level. It works on the back muscles, the knees, the thighs and the arms.

SerreWith my fragile back, I already knew this profession wasn’t for me, now I’ve got the confirmation. However I find this work very interesting: understanding the earth and its functioning, enhancing the yields and all of this to produce healthy food, what a noble profession! Theses few days are the occasion to get to know better Annabel, to notice how much her passion for the earth is big, leads her and generate in her a beautiful energy. Indeed, she is able to work all day long in the garden and go directly to a 2 hours session of African dance! No need to mention the violin classes since Septembre on the top of that . She is learning so fast that she is already able to play in public…it is true passion gives wings!

At the farm it is non-stop, there is always something to do and the only moments to relax are the one spent around a good meal. Here we drink spring water coming directly from the mountains, we eat the vegetables and the bred produced. The lunchs are full of conviviality, suspended time where everyone gather to exchange and refill in energy. Each member of the collectif is responsible of the kitchen one day per week. At the farm we always plan the meals compting an extra person, just in case someone turns up. During my stay we have never been less than 7 around the table! For me, these precious moments of conviviality are the best moments in the day.

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Thursday is a special day: it is the day of the weekly meeting: all the members of the collectif are here at 8.00 am and the morning is dedicated to share the advancement of the different projects, the questions, the difficulties and the decision making. I don’t attend this team time, instead I focus on a flyers proposal in order to continue to mobilise the good wills around the project.  At the end of the meeting we meet on the work-site, in the dust and the straw we spend our energy after this very static morning.

On Friday, it is bred day and sales  day. I wake up at 5 am in order to help Nicolas at the bakery. It is an intense day of 12 hours work with 3 breaks of 20 to 40 minutes only. Still I enjoy it very much.  We weight, we knead the dough, we fold, we weight and prepare the bred. There are so much manipulations that when Nicolas works on his own he carries not less than a weight of 3 tonnes of flour, dough and bred during the day!

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Before lunch time we prepare 2 batches of bred (150 kg in total), and after an express lunch  the loading team  joins the bakery. « Only few farmer-baker have the privilege to realise this operation with such a team. «  explains proudly Nicolas. EnfournementIt is a well orchestrated operation which then takes place in front of my eyes: Matthieu prepares the trays of bred and covers it with  flour, Pascale prepares 2 bred on each wooden  baker’s peels and Nicolas loads the oven. The aim of the operation is to execute it as fast as possible in order to maintain the oven temperature constant. Then comes my third break, this time I can not resist to a little snooze on the sofa…only 10 minutes before the next batch! It is a tiring day, still very pleasant. It remains me my student times and the long hours  in the lab… in a better version as I can eat a some warm bred at the end  ! DSC_0196.JPG


Last but not least, Saturday is a very sunny day. While Annabel is at selling bred vegetables and honey at the market and Nicolas is working in the fields I feel a bit unproductive. So I start to clean up the kitchen and the dinning room and then I cook the lunch…in between the read of two short stories sat outside under the sun…happiness! After the lunch my legs are itching me, so I challenge myself to climb at the cross in less than 2 hours. I passed by this place few weeks before but it is so much better under the sun !

In order to end this great week beautifully, nothing better than a folk party led by the group Faucon Folk. I was dreaming of such evening since a long time, I can now tick that box on my list ! 

A desire to support the Farm des Roussets?

Click on the picture below and deal with the French web site OR contact the collectif in English at the email address info@batotopie.org . Above all, don’t hesitate to comment and ask questions on this article. Thank you .

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Publicités

Demain – Tomorrow

     Half way of the COP21, most of the time inside the positive bubble of Place to B, I am making the most of my free time. Through conferences, movies, live at Place to Brief, Le Bourget or this weekend in the village of alternatives, I listen, I learn, I question, I read and I meet lot of people. It is difficult to find the time to stop, think and write. And, I don’t really know where to start. Each evening I tell myself  « Tomorrow my ideas will be clearer, tomorrow I’ll do it! I will write. »

       DDEMAINEMAIN (Tomorrow, in french) is actually the title of the film of Mélanie Laurent and the Cyril Dion. Thanks to this movie I understood why I didn’t know where to start. It is because everything is connected. A good solution can’t  only focus on agriculture, or energy, or economy but requires to take all these parameters and many more in account. Of course, I will share on blogpause some already existing and tangible solutions, but you would miss something not watching DEMAIN.

     Realised over 2 years, this movie has been crowd-founded by 10 266 citizens who believed in the project. DEMAIN is all together realist, positive and dynamic. The message is clear: tomorrow is built today, and therefore solutions already exist. The movie directors chose to start by the agriculture chapter because, as Cyril Dion explained after the movie, it is proven that the end of a civilisation is most of the time due to food shortage. One thing being connected to another, we are soon taken on a road trip of the solutions, the entire experience being enhanced by a wonderful soundtrack composed by Frederika Stahl. During the journey we forget about time, we discover, we learn, we are astonished by so much positivity about such a topic! This movie will be soon a reference among the film-reportages on solutions to climate change. So invite your family, your friends and your neighbours and go to the cinema! Who knows, maybe a idea of project will grow out of this cinema session!

The car industry entering circular economy

         Friday night at Place to B, Hugo Spowers was one of the guests for the live session Place to Brief. He was presenting his company Riversimple, which could change the landscape of the car industry in few years time.

       Currently cars are designed and developed, such as it is built, used and disposed. And this is what we usually do in our current linear economy. Mr. Spowers business approach is completely different: he is developing a service where people will pay a monthly package for 1 to 3 years, which will include the rent of the car, the hydrogen fuel cost, the road tax, the car maintenance, as well as any needed repairs on the car. The only additional cost for the client will be a fixed mileage rate. “In the eventuality of hydrogen price inflation, it would be an on-cost for the company. And as the car gets older, the cost of the car rent would decrease”, explains Hugo Spowers.

       Mr. Spowers also insists on the fact that he will be selling a service and not a product. Simply because if he was to sell cars 100% recyclable, then it would be in his interest to sell short or middle –life cars which are not always repairable. It would make the economical circle spin faster and faster, so that he would be able to  increase the capital of his company. His vision is actually, rather the opposite: he wants to slow down the circle. So he could reinvest the benefits of his company in developing new cars, more energy efficient, and as a consequence increase its capital. The service is not available yet, next year there will be a trial with 20 cars and the company is aiming to start offering its service by 2018.

 

     This business model is the perfect illustration of circular economy, so well supported by Dame Helen MacArthur and her Foundation since 2010. According to the circular economy model, the products are designed to be long-lasting, repairable and recyclable. This idea grown in Ellen’s mind after she experienced it sailing on her own across the Austral Ocean. She had to take care and re-use each single resource she had on board. Because what she had taken with her when she started was all she had. Since then, she has been sharing her vision with the entire world; taking part to many conferences, participating to TED talks and trying to inject this model inside multinationals.

       From the vision, to the realization, it takes lot of time and efforts. But replacing lines by circles, fossil energy by green energy, short-life items by long-life items is definitively part of the climate change solution. And it is in humanity interest to see this virtuous circular business model start spinning in all types of industry.