Le Paysan Urbain (the urban farmer in English) creates agro-ecological urban farms, harnessing this economic activity to help people in difficult situations get back into work. After creating a Paris branch, the Romainville-based association has set up in Marseille, with the support of Societe Generale. Cécile Trousseau-Petche presents this initiative, which combines micro-farming, employment support and public awareness of food and ecology.
Cécile Trousseau-Petche joined Le Paysan Urbain in 2017. She got interested in urban farming after looking to make a career change and a skills assessment. The founder Benoît Liotard - who created the Paris branch - wanted to appoint partners to expand the initiative in Marseille. She is the only woman in the management team, which is made up of three managing partners and a fourth part-time worker. Le Paysan Urbain farms are franchised with a name and logo. They share a set of specifications and adhere to three underlying principles (social, economic and environmental).
A nationwide programme
The concept of urban farming is well-known in Paris and is spreading across the region. Marseille has significant requirements in terms of work-based integration, but there are not enough structures. The project was therefore received positively, even though urban farming is a very new topic with insufficient support from the local authorities. Ultimately, the project received support from private partners, both financially and in terms of support and networking, as noted by the co-founder of “Le Paysan Urbain Marseille”.
The partnership with the Societe Generale Foundation
The foundation has been on board since the start of the adventure, allowing Le Paysan Urbain to set up and invest from its launch. The main difficulty with the project was the initial coordination (banks, subsidies, teams). Cécile tells us: “We received “employment support workshop” approval in June to hire six employees from the outset, and we would have had to start on 1 October 2018. Societe Generale’s support allowed us to start earlier, recruit properly, and invest in equipment.”
A gateway to employment
Le Paysan Urbain develops agro-ecological urban farms, which are socially responsible and rooted in the local area, whilst remaining connected to rural and suburban farmers. Microgreen production [seedlings mainly from pulse, cereal, vegetable and herb seeds] in an urban environment is a means for activity-based integration. Ilham had previously worked as a temporary inventory worker and had a snack bar which she had to sell. Following this, she hadn’t worked for five years. Whilst waiting for training at the employment support centre in October 2019, she received a four-month contract at Le Paysan Urbain: “That’s the aim of this Le Paysan Urbain experience, it’s a helping hand. We have 24 months to come up with something more specific.”