The Nutcracker Erasmus+ strategic partnership began with surveys carried out by its five partners on the comparative effectiveness of volunteering practices in various social projects.
Sixteen noteworthy cases were documented
In France, Les Graphistes de l’Ombre wanted to supplement this remote approach with field visits… This led us to sign up for the workshop offered on certain Thursday mornings to willing volunteers by the Ferme Pédagogique du Roy d’Espagne.
This was a rather unusual case, since it did not specifically concern people in various situations of fragility, as was the priority target of the project, but mainly a questioning of the motivating force of working the land, in a neighbourhood context.
A dozen people of all sexes and ages (mostly young people) were welcomed by the farm’s permanent staff at 9am with hot drinks.
The first thing that happened was an informal introduction over hot drinks and fruit.
It was clearly a question of taking the time to get to know each other and exchange ideas, rather than launching headlong into the expected tasks.
Many of the participants already knew each other, and a happy, egalitarian atmosphere gradually developed (a new game was spontaneously invented: what’s your first name, and what would have been your dream first name?)
Information was naturally shared on this occasion, both about the life of the farm itself (market days, news, projects, expected products, etc.) and about local or personal news (other neighbouring social projects), in a spirit of dialogue in which everyone took part.
It was striking to see that no strong hierarchy was put forward, but rather that the idea of doing something useful together prevailed… the legitimacy of the employees was naturally established by their knowledge of the area and its prospects…
At the end of this first stage, the permanent staff proposed several work groups, in which everyone took up a position with the idea of doing something useful for the group rather than for their own personal pleasure… this time it was a question of cleaning up the farm and its surroundings in preparation for the next open day to be held the following Saturday.
So we had to weed, sweep, get rid of rubbish at the waste tip… and in addition feed the hens, collect the eggs and clean the trailer.
Gloves and tools were provided in abundance.
The permanent staff were just as busy as the volunteers, and you could tell that they were taking things to heart, and not from on high.
The atmosphere was active and peaceful, interspersed with breaks.
This non-urgent relationship with time, driven by the desire to do well and to be of service, led everyone to carry out their work conscientiously.
Time passed quickly, in the open air. The weather was fine.
At midday, we all gathered around a meal prepared by one of the groups using produce from the farm.
Everyone then left the meeting at their own pace, making plans to meet again at the open house or at the next market.
I’ve lived in the neighbourhood for twenty-five years, but for a long time this farm was just a name to me. Now it’s a wonderful example of people getting involved in an environmental cause that I care about, and it makes me want to be supported.
The Roy d’Espagne educational farm covers an area of around 2 hectares in the southern suburbs of Marseille.
It is currently run by a team of seven employees.
A market is held there two days a week.
It is made available on the basis of renewable five-year invitations to tender, with specifications including 50% educational activities for schools and 50% fruit and vegetable production.
The volunteer workshop on Thursdays is the initiative of the collective that currently runs the site.