Step 3, Toulouse & le Gers innovative projects : urban farming, organic bakery & hydroponics
STEP 3 of my natural farming French tour:Toulouse & le Gers
As most of the project I talk about in this article are in French on their Internet pages, I will summarize what I have learned thanks to this week in the city of Toulouse and the nearby French region called Le Gers.
For this third stage of my natural farming pioneers French tour I wanted to find urban agriculture projects and other agricultural innovations such as hydroponics (crops in water).
Thanks to a good friend from college and readings on the internet, I already knew which associations, institutions and companies I wanted to contact before arrival. This way I could meet people (locals, students, seniors) who launched various initiatives: family and shared gardens, a vegetable garden on an hospital rooftop, a vegetable garden in a university campus which is open to everyone (students, people working for the university administration, local inhabitants), an innovative starts-up proposing the construction of urban projects of different scales, with different techniques but always adapted to local needs.
The points that all these initiatives have in common are:
- The urban gardens are the perfect excuses to share, interact with others and improve one’s quality of life by doing an activity “hand in hand” with nature;
- Urban gardening projects go well when they are the result of a collaboration between all project stakeholders;
- They clearly contribute to transform the city in a greener place and a source of and well being.
One of the oldest project I visited is the garden of Tournefeuille. They started 13 years ago in a place where there was nothing. Now it is a biodiversity paradise where a hundred people garden every day. It gave me a nice perspective of what my urban farm project could be like in 13 years time.
About 2 hours away from Toulouse, I discovered a unique hydroponics project initiated by a Franco-Argentian couple 3 years ago. Nicolas & Marion used to work for a big company in Buenos Aires. During a weekend in a Tigre island they discovered the Villa Monica hydroponics project, where they tasted such flavorful strawberries that they decided to do the same in their tiny apartment. To produce tasty crops in places where you cannot cultivate became a passion and so was born the project “Les Sourciers” (their website’s english version).
Today they sell their product to top chefs in the region and revolutionize the agricultural model promoted by the French Agriculture Chamber by showing they earn their living cultivating in a greenhouse of only 650m2. To me they are definitely pioneers: not only do they work using the most ecological methods available but also do they research better natural hydroponics’ techniques and develop them.
Thanks to them I met another farming pioneer: Maxime. He is a young farmer/baker who recovers wheat ancient seeds, cultivates them through organic methods, makes his own first quality flour and bread with very little gluten. He does not need anything to communicate: people fight to buy his bread!