In 2016, in South Vienne, the Tournerie Farm was transferred to a collective of 11 young farmers producing a range of agricultural produce. Formerly, this 80-hectare farm was a specialised cattle farm (meat production) where only one person worked. The farm land and buildings were acquired by the community farmland trust, Terre de Liens.
Planning Collective farming
The project emerged in 2012 when a group of friends studying agronomy together (in Lille) started to think about building a common project with a wide array of agricultural productions. Some of them were interested in gardening, others in breeding and others in processing (cheese, beer and bread). After graduating, the group knew they were willing to work together and they would need time to develop their project, as they knew starting an alternative to the agro-industrial model is not easy!
To mature their project, some of them worked in alternative agricultural organisations as a way to gain practical experience about alternative agriculture. They also visited farms to see whether the project they had in mind was realistic. In particular, they visited the Radis & Co Collective (see Example 1) where they could see that mixed farming, diversified production and local supply chains led to a viable economic model. They could also see that the collective organisation enables farmers to have free weekends and to replace each other when needed. Such a collective organisation contributes to a better life/ work balance which is something important for all members of the collective.
Taking over a large farm: from 1 to 11 farmers!
In 2014, the collective started its actual entry into farming: they engaged in the vocational training requested by the Agricultural Chamber, farm visits, and specific project planning. They came up with the following plan: organic gardening on 4 hectares (with 4.500m² of greenhouse); breed 15 dairy cows (Pie noir breed), 70 goats (Poitevine breed) and pork; growing 20 hectares of organic cereals; having a cheese processing unit; producing local bread and beer on the farm. They also identified the Tournerie farm as where they would like to get established. Besides agronomic engineers, an architect-carpenter then joined the collective.
In 2014, Terre de Liens also became involved in the project. In 2015, it raised €269.500 to buy 80 hectares of land. The members of the collective bought themselves the 2 farmhouses and the farm buildings. The project would not have been born without the support received from traditional agricultural players (SAFER, banks, chamber). But the main factor of success of the project was the support of the previous farm owners. As the farm had been in their family for two generations, they did not want the farm to enlarge existing farms and disappear. Throughout the process, they have supported the collective of the 11 young people with their patience and kindness.