The nourishing landscapes of Nantes: the solidarity gardens
50 gardens throughout the city and 10,000 plants entrusted to the care of municipal gardeners, with the aim of feeding the poor. It’s happening in Nantes, where the project Paysages Nourriciers (nutritious landscapes) is taking shape in recent weeks to respond to the social crisis sparked by the health emergency, which has further compromised the fate of indigent families. Il was therefore necessary to have a productive pool from which to draw to guarantee the supply of free food to anyone in need it in the Municipality of Nantes, as mayor Johanna Rolland explains in support of the initiative: “The associations that normally provide food aid have seen the number of requests grow exponentially. There are many families who no longer have access to healthy and quality food, many have lost their jobs, the precariousness of the moment affects us all.” During the lockdown, the Food Bank continued to supply charity associations with fresh and packaged products to be distributed, but the simultaneous increase in the demand for local produce decreased the usual surplus destined for donations.
Offsetting food insecurity. Gardeners at work
So “it is up to the administration to offset the issue of food insecurity on a large scale,” the mayor explained. The city administration authorised experimentation promoted by the Municipal Social Action Centre in collaboration with the service company that deals with the maintenance of public green spaces, now struggling with the planting and cultivation of solidarity urban gardens (250 gardeners involved). Potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes that find space in parks and public gardens, in the moats of the Nantes castle, in the green areas surrounding the town hall and in the flower beds of the city squares. Starting from about two hectares of land obtained from the municipal “nursery”, which at the beginning of June were sown with the help of the volunteers of the EmpowerNantes association, assisted by young farmers.
The operation in numbers
By autumn the new edible gardens will supply a ton of potatoes, five hundred pumpkins and beans; but the project also cultivates vegetables for the summer – from tomatoes to courgettes, beets – and products for the winter, such as corn, which will grow in many green areas already identified (fifty in the eleven districts of the city, for 25,000 square meters of total surface) and marked on the map of the Paysages Nourriciers, involving shopping centres, schools, museums, the Nantes convention center. With the merit of soliciting a seasonal consumption of the products of the earth and actively involving citizens in a project open to everyone’s participation (the harvest will last from July to October, while the sowing ends in a few days), modulated on the principles of permaculture and without use of any pesticides. By autumn, if the weather is favourable, the goal wil be to reach 25 tons of vegetables to be distributed free of charge to people in need. The intention is to guarantee a thousand families a supply of 25 kilos of vegetables.