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The Farmer Workshop gives back the key to the fields to farmers

In a detective film, this is where the body would be hidden. With its blackened stone buildings, its high brick chimney from which branches escape, the abandoned Renage paper factory, north of Grenoble (Isère), offers a post-apocalyptic setting. Life, colors, noise, are confined to the interior of a large hall where L’Atelier paysan has taken up residence.

At the foot of shelves bending under the equipment, surrounded by steel workbenches and bright yellow suction arms, trainees wearing welding masks listen to their trainer who, with his iron, makes sparks. Far from the calm of their fields, these organic farmers have come to learn how to design, manufacture and repair their own tools. In 2020, nearly 600 of them attended the “Self-construction cooperative” The Peasant Workshop.

Clever DIYs and Glorious Hacks

Without really knowing it, they owe it to Joseph Templier, a market gardener from Isère who, failing to find the tools adapted to his crops on permanent beds (a German technique, on mounds), engineered to shape them, triggering a parade of curious, then the creation, in 2014, of a cooperative society of collective interest. Today it has thirty employees, 126 members, and a ten-year grand prix for solidarity finance (The world-Finansol, in 2019).

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The quest for L’Atelier paysan could not be more fruitful. It all begins, in fact, with a “Survey tour of peasant innovations”. L’Atelier’s trucks crisscross the farms of France on the lookout for clever tinkering, glorious hacks capable of improving working conditions, especially for women farmers. Like the beehive transport cart. Or the electronic scale for remote monitoring of the same hives.

Fishing for ideas is complemented by participatory research and development. Under the leadership of L’Atelier, peasants brainstorm in bunch.

This weighing system is the work of Jean-Philippe Valla, a former electronics engineer who became a farmer-market gardener in Trièves, south of Isère. Regularly, the experiments carried out in its “Tournesol farm” self-sufficient in energy (low-cost methanization unit, biogas purifier for driving by car with its own gas, etc.) are paid into the common pot of L’Atelier paysan. Who then undertakes a work of reverse engineering, dissecting, putting in plans the spotted innovations, aggrozouk, cultibutte, fakir roller, vibroplanche, boudibinage stars, grelinette and other neo-tools with the strange names of organic farms.

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