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La Ferme du Parc des Meuniers : an atypical educational farm

Île-de-France - Villeneuve-le-Roi
Social ties in priority neighbourhoods

Set up in 1995, Parc des Meuniers farm is a centre that people of all ages and backgrounds can come to, free of charge, to meet and find a friendly ear. People that live in the region can meet other people and develop social ties through workshop activities. The farm is also a social centre that supports young people, as well as the not so young, in dealing with everyday life.



“It all started from the realisation that there was no sense of community out on the streets. We wanted to see if it was possible to create such social ties by involving residents in the project and drawing on their skills,” explained Béatrice Mallebranche, manager of the farm. This place was built by the people that live around here, for the people that live around here,” began Béatrice Mallebranche, manager of Parc des Meuniers farm.

A project developed with and by everyone

Every day, alone or in groups, pensioners, who often come with their grandchildren, teenagers, parents and volunteers all meet at the farm in Villeneuve-le-Roi (Val-de-Marne), near Orly. By taking part in all the tasks of a small farm, everyone can get together and work together in group workshops to be in touch with nature and encourage openness between people. Activities include bread-making, beekeeping, growing fruit and vegetables, wagon rides, and so on. The aim of the farm project is to encourage a sense of community, respect differences and develop solidarity: “people do not come here to consume or take. We have to GIVE and take. You have to give to others in order to receive what they have to give. At the farm, we share our knowledge, and thus learn from others, we respect one another, create dialogue, build and act together,” as it states in the association’s charter.

A dynamic space for social integration

Since 2005, the farm has also developed activities aimed at helping young people aged 16 to 25 who have social problems and no qualifications to integrate. This is what attracted Jérôme Thibaut, Director of the Emulithe agency, a VINCI Group subsidiary (Eurovia). “I’ve been a member of the association ever since I started working at VINCI. I've been very interested in its social action. The farm helps young people find their feet in society, learn basic things like saying “Hello!” and being on time… Also, at the farm, they can learn about different trades. I tell them about what we do. It’s also a way to recognise the value of what our field teams do. And you won’t believe how proud they are to pass on their knowledge! I remember one site vehicle operator who was over the moon to show young kids how a power shovel works!”

On the association’s blog, Adama wanted to share his experience: "on placement at the Parc des Meuniers farm, I learned so much from the trainers, they gave me so much support and observed my behaviour. And now I’ve got a permanent job in the building trade.”

It seems only natural then that Jérôme Thibaut would sponsor the association in developing its project to build an eco-barn. “The association needed a workshop, to carry on working whatever the weather, as well as somewhere to keep their equipment safe. So it came up with the idea of a small energy self-sufficient barn. I worked with the teams on the design and the budget, and advised them about some of the equipment. I helped them draw up the application to the VINCI Foundation and they received a grant of €25,000 for the solar panels and a tank.” With funding for the whole project, the eco-barn was opened on 18 June 2011. A great moment of sharing and celebration. And undoubtedly not the last…

July 2011 © Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

VINCI Foundation works with Reporters d'Espoirs, a French news agency, to highlight and share the innovative social initiatives that it supports. The arrangement includes the writing of articles and exchange on topics that lead to solutions. Thus presented, the initiatives, validated using the criteria of the editorial charter of Reporters d'Espoirs, are intended to demonstrate their development and results.