La Sauge: Teaching the Virtues of Gardening to Children in Workers’ Quarters in ’93

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In March last year, the association received La Sauge on the 3rde Ile-de-France Prize awarded by the Crédit Coopératif Foundation on the occasion of the Inspirational Prizes for the Social and Solidarity Economy. Townhouses, initiation of gardening, teaching workshops, communal gardens, the purpose of La Sauge is to develop urban agriculture, mainly in the Seine-Saint-Denis, an area that is strongly under-supplied with green areas. Éline Lambert, responsible for the association’s public outreach department, explained the goals and the positive effects of these initiatives.

Legal News: How was La Sauge born?

Eline Lambert : It was born in 2015 from two young Parisian men’s desire to have the garden, to be more surrounded by greenery and agriculture. Soon enough, they formed an association. When they wanted to devote all their time to this project, they left their work in sustainable food to devote themselves to it. They then got a stay at Ground Control (a hybrid cultural venue in the 12th)e arrondissement of Paris, editor’s note), where they managed the kitchen garden. It was here that they understood that it worked well to connect issues of sustainable development and events. They therefore responded to a call for projects from the Est Ensemble to gain access to the Prairie du Canal wilderness in Pantin. This is how they got their first apartment building before they diversified in Nantes with the apartment building l’Agronaute and in Aubervilliers with Terre Terre. These spaces, the first levers to promote the pursuit of an agricultural activity for the greatest number, combine three vocations. The first is education, to show that we can cultivate, even on a concrete slab. The second concerns agricultural production: we have a small production of vegetables, but on an experimental basis and for demonstration purposes, so that people can put their hands in the ground. The actual sales take place in our greenhouses, urban and participating horticulture, where we produce plants so that people can bring them back and have them at home. The third issue is to welcome the public to events.

AJ: Do you also create communal gardens?

EL: In addition to the farms, which represent large plots of 2,000 to 5,000 m², we also go to people’s homes, near where they live and work. We create common gardens in neighborhoods. On these much smaller plots, from 100 to 200 m², we reintroduce local production in the neighborhoods, create social ties, do education, and we let people who have small funds get quality food. . But what mainly emerges is the importance of social ties and reconnection to a particular form of revegetation.

AJ: Who are the target groups?

EL: It really depends on the location. On apartment buildings, there are many city dwellers, especially at weekend events, such as at the Prairie du Canal in Pantin. In Nantes and Aubervilliers, the public comes more from the corner, from the neighborhood. In working-class neighborhoods, it is people who live in public housing. In these cases, the social landlords asked us to plant these gardens with the residents.

AJ: This year you received a social and solidarity economic inspiration award with your education program “From seed to plate”. What does it consist of?

EL: Our education program takes place in neighborhoods, often priority areas of the city, and in public schools. They concern children from neighborhoods, mainly from the Seine-Saint-Denis. This is where we feel the most social effect of our actions because we follow a class every other week for an entire school year. Recently, a father from Bobigny came to us and said, “My son asked me for a kitchen garden for his birthday”! We see children make drawings about photosynthesis.

In this way, we also try to arouse students’ curiosity about occupations that have been forgotten or underestimated: agricultural worker, horticultural manager, farmer, landscape gardener, gardener, nursery, or in a more urban way we try to create jobs related to green areas more attractive.

AJ: What are the goals of your education program? How do you approach the important concepts for a more sustainable agriculture?

EL: Our entire program is built on concepts covered by the national curriculum, such as science and technology, civil and moral education (with the concept of positive urban redevelopment) or geography (which allows us to talk about climate, geology, etc.) . We address a theme per. trimester, and each class has a garden, they go to every other week for an hour and a half whenever possible.

During the first trimester (during the fall) we talk about biodiversity, soil life, the cycle of plants. The second trimester, in the winter, when we walk less or not in the garden, allows us to focus on waste: what types of waste are there, how to sort it at home, it reduces what is the life cycle of jeans … The end of this quarter addresses the issue of compost. We also do a session where we prepare jams with unsold food, which allows for a transition with the third trimester, in the spring, which is an opportunity to return to the garden. Then we start planting and then again, we explain how organic gardening works, agroecology and we discuss the notions of sustainable food for the planet and healthy for themselves.

Currently, La Sauge is present in 16 classes, 12 in 93 and 4 in Nantes. Three years ago we led workshops in only 8 classes. Since we can not multiply, our goal this year is to imagine an online kit to create a platform where teachers will have access to the sheets for each session and to many tips (how to get a plot from the town hall, the school. ..) and a forum, a kind of chat room to be in direct contact with us.

AJ: The idea is to expand far beyond these classes?

EL: Yes ! The first draft of the model will be completed over the summer, and my colleagues will gather a dozen teachers to attend a test year, without our physical presence, even though we are there to advise them and possibly purchase the equipment from them. Launch scheduled for September 2023.

AJ: What’s left after a year with the students? What themes or information mark them the most?

EL: Often the students at the beginning of the year are afraid of earthworms, they think it is disgusting (laughs)! But at the end of the year, it’s not uncommon to hear, “Look, there are lots of earthworms here, that means the earth is alive.” That means they overcame some fears and understood what living earth is.

We see changes in behavior toward sorting, with children managing to send messages to parents or their siblings, in neighborhoods where sorting is far from a matter of course, where the norm is still sometimes to throw trash out the window. And we hear very eloquent exchanges like this question asked by a student: “If we eat seeds, then they grow in our stomach”? The comrade’s answer was clear: “Well no, there is no sun! »…

AJ: Is the interest in the topic of urban agriculture growing?

EL:. We see an interest in the subject within all our departments (events, agricultural production, animation, etc.). In terms of animation, we see many people in retraining who consider our farms as places of resources, transition and experimentation between urban and rural areas. They like to do internships, volunteer work … Often it is people who have to start education, move to the countryside or become employees of a company or association in the same field.

We also see the enthusiasm for the company’s “team building”: We have received inquiries since 2019 from companies that want to come to us, not for their employees to openly retrain (laughs), but for the performances we approach. Four or five years ago, the term urban agriculture meant nothing to people.

We also have a program for adults called “The Factory of Gardeners and Gardeners”, intended for adults who want to create communal gardens in their neighborhood but do not have the keys. We will therefore give them them, especially the keys to gardening, but also to project management (retro-planning) and human (non-violent communication), so that after 8 months of support they can return to their neighborhood with this background and create their common garden in amateur mode. The first campaign was to be launched in March 2023 and in the Seine-Saint-Denis.

AJ: Shopping at 93 also seems central to La Sauge. Is it not a coincidence that these programs are offered here?

EL: The first opportunity to trade in the 93’s was the Prairie du Canal. Then we realized that we wanted to move on around this place, to have it as an anchor and to radiate with the education program and the common gardens. Aubervilliers, Pantin and Bobigny are cities well below the recommended global thresholds for green spaces. Here, the children who live in apartments, without a garden … do not go on holiday, nor do they have the opportunity to go to potential grandparents in country estates, these are children who otherwise do not have access to gardens, to agriculture. Hence our desire to go exclusively to primary schools. Our program is free for schools, children and families. But it requires being funded by borrowers and obtaining grants.

AJ: What will it mean for you to win this award?

EL: On an honorary basis, whether it’s an award, and not a donation or a call for projects, it changes a little! The 3,500 euros received will specifically go to the overall operation of the training program. This will make it possible to continue carrying out this program in 93, for all there are operating costs, the purchase of equipment such as rakes, land, plants … And even to print the necessary documents for the workshops.

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