I started monthly events one year ago with a local friend, called “café agricole” (i.e. agricultural… café!) : during about 2 hours we explore themes alternatively, or watch documentaries… Themes like soil fertility keys, regenerative agriculture(s), water management, cover crops, etc.
Our public is new gardeners (many people in our place just left cities), old gardeners, some market gardeners and few farmers.
It is free: nothing to pay, we do it on a voluntary basis. And the idea is to let everyone willing to expose a subject do it: we want different experts, different voices, different experiences…
Our “café agricoles” are based on 2 common feelings:
- more and more the media tend to present farmers as bad people… A pseudo-nature (without humans) is opposed to farming in people’s mind: so either you pay for expensive organic food (upper middle class living mostly in the cities) or you are a bad person. There is no middle ground, no overview, no memory, no intelligence of agriculture, dynamically speaking… It is a dangerous situation. Whereas french peasant’s history is overwhelming. It is particularly unpleasant being conscious of that and being in social circles of newcomers (from cities) all thi king farmers are bad, dirty, polluting all they can… As if they wanted to pollute.
- for decades there has been books and books and books about new techniques: from ten kinds of different composting techniques to “straw is all you need”, or “it’s all about the moon”, or “you should amend with that”, do “square gardens”, potatoes have to be grown in tyres, compost teas, synthropic, till-till, no till, etc. It’s crazy. And the thing is that people coming from the cities are always up to date with the last trend… (I would have put myself in this bag 20 years ago)… So they don’t know basics. They get radicalised in the last (ridicule) revolutionary technique… Whereas their old neighbours, retired farmers or not, all do gardens, the usual ones, and them get food… Not the newcomers: they keep on failing.
So that is why we try to concentrate on the basics: what to do when you start a garden, why, … it is rather educational, but kept simple.
And we are between 25 and 80each time.
But, to help creating the local “landrace community”, in november we did an event dedicated to plant breeding:
-1st part Kathy talked about her experience of “dehybridizing” a tomato
-2nd : Camille talked about genetics basics applied to plant breeding
-3rd: I talked about the interest of creating genetically diverse populations (“as we lost all from here over the past century”). And to do that, after introducing its difference with conventionnal plant breeding:
- first we heard Joseph talking landrace gardening (the first YT video of Going to Seed)
- second talk about Salvatore Ceccarelli’s similar approach with grains
- eventually I talked about my populations started in 2021.
That was a bit too dense for a 2 hour program but great anyway.
Also I try to participate to or help with the very few seed and plant swaps around.
Also I start getting involved in a french network (Réseau Semences Paysannes), where I talk of Joseph and his approach every time I can, thinking it is a great way to involve gardeners, and that it helps quitting the conservative mindset associated with the old varieties “cult”.
I hope that Joseph’s book translation will help spreading the message.
Overall I always talk to other gardeners in practical terms of what I am doing and what I enjoy mostly at this early stage of my populations (by populations I mean modern landraces): diversity of shapes, colours, textures… Surprises, surprises… Also I talk about our community, notably our Serendipity Seed Swap… People really love hearing about that: exchanging seeds with people from Mallorca to Sweden… They love it.