And, suddenly, a huge green field breaks the verticality of the landscape. In the distance, the towers of the Allende de Saint-Denis and Clos-Saint-Lazare de Stains housing estates. Under the nose, still green tomato plants, lettuce, flowers wrapping around the hedges, deliciously pink raspberries. Sarah, blue boots on her feet, leans on a pitchfork that sinks into the ground. » It was a corner where I had a lot of zucchini. This year, I wanted to have eggplant. It didn’t take. » Steve, his cousin, pitches as he awkwardly moves a full watering can. “I came to lend a hand, but above all to spend the evening here. The family gardens are magnificent for enjoying a corner of greenery and watching the evening fall. » When the day of maintenance and harvest is over, Sarah puts away her equipment and goes to look for glasses and a cooler left in the garden shed, made of worn boards. She sits at a beautiful wooden table under a fig tree and cuts fresh fruits and vegetables that have just been picked. “My parents have had this allotment garden for more than thirty years. We live on the 8th floor, right in the city center of Saint-Denis. Every time I come here, I feel like I’m somewhere else, in another region. However, we are ten minutes door to door. »


Around, other gardeners of the city take care of their plots, exchange advice and share strawberries and asparagus. There are hundreds of colorful municipal squares here, which everyone plants and decorates as they please, creating their own universe, their intimate link with nature. “And also its own anti-inflation shield! Here I have quality fruits and vegetables at prices out of the madness of the market”, Sarah laughs. Right in the middle of this family garden of Seine-Saint-Denis, a dense and concrete department, but dotted with shared vegetable gardens, also flourish in clusters, in scattered flights or in clouds of swirls of insects, snails not in a hurry, shaggy sparrows and a few haughty and discreet weasels. A small lung of biodiversity. “Really, it doesn’t feel like we’re in town. It’s my little enchanted parenthesis! », said Steve rolling a cigarette. And the story has been going on for more than a century.

We owe the idea to a woman: Félicie Hervieu created the first allotment gardens in Sedan in 1893. The idea was taken up by Abbé Lemire, also a deputy, who in 1896 founded the local French League. land and house. The priest intends to offer a piece of the rural world lost to the populations who are migrating massively towards the big cities within the framework of the industrial revolution. If some find a little paternal side to morality in Abbé Lemire, who invites the workers to “get away from the cabarets” to “reconnect with their family activities”, we must also recognize him, beyond his “terrianism », a real social ambition. . “Men who have neither fire, nor place, nor attachments to the profession, nor attachments to the soil, manage more easily than the others to have neither faith nor law. They wander the world haphazardly, victims of the law of supply and demand, and they inevitably end up in the great centers where disillusionment and despair await them. he wrote. In addition, the CGT is also launching a campaign encouraging workers not to leave their homes by getting drunk until they spend most of their wages there, and invites them to sow seeds in the suburbs.

Over the years, the red municipalities of Seine-Saint-Denis will also get their hands dirty. Each plot, along a canal, a factory, in the moat of a military fort, will be motley with plans and hangars. The workers’ communes follow the movement everywhere in France.

“Jadistes”: the fight is bearing fruit

More than 250,000 housing estates were even counted at the end of the Second World War, during which they played a key role in feeding city dwellers. Since then, the Father Lemire League has been renamed the National Federation of Family and Collective Gardens (FNJFC). It is she who manages the allotment gardens, with other associations and municipalities. 135,000 members are registered in the country, with access to land against a modest right of use and a ban on selling its production. “Honestly, it’s worth it! », smiles Sarah, who calls to defend the gardens.

Because, out of around 2,000 plots in Seine-Saint-Denis, several are threatened by real estate projects. Nearly 9,000 square meters of allotment gardens could disappear in Aubervilliers by the 2024 Olympics, to make way for a station and equipment. About 4,000 square meters have been razed for a nautical center. Before the administrative court of appeal of Paris, a group of “jadists” (for the gardens to be defended) obtained the cancellation of the construction of the solarium, and the retrocession, in the long term, of the land.“It’s bucolic like that, but it’s a real fight, the allotment gardens”measures Sarah.


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