Some places encountered on our journey through the world of urban agriculture and gardening

Dec 26

Cité Industrielle

There was only one drawback about sharing the onion soup proposed by Le Jardin Nomade : missing the kiwi gathering at La Cité Industrielle, happening at the same time.

La Cité Industrielle used to host craftsmen workshops feeding the famous furniture retail stores located in rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine. Now, it is a quiet and beautiful paved street, where inhabitants are closely in contact with each other. They created a collective around ten years ago, through which they managed, for instance, to close the street to non-residential car traffic, allowing kids and plants to freely invade the street.

This same collective invested the last small piece of wasteland remaining along the street, and turned it into a garden. They saved the only sunny place available for the gardeners, and installed a table and a pair of chairs.

In addition to usual garden crops, such as tomatoes, they planted two trees : a kiwi tree, and a fig tree - two kind of trees I was not really expecting to bump into in Paris. Thierry, one of the active gardeners, tells me that they had to partially cut down the kiwi tree, as it was growing quickly along the street, and causing some problems on the neighboring façades.

The garden was threatened a couple of months ago, because the organ managing the city buildings and terrains wanted to sell the - high-value - piece of land. Fortunately, the mayor of the 11th district interceded to save the garden, and it is now the latest - and 67th - to be included in the “Main Verte” network of Parisians collective gardens.  For sanitary reasons, the city built up planters to avoid contamination from the soil in edible crops. They also destroyed the wall protecting the garden from the street and replaced it by a fence, so that more light could get in.

Fifteen gardeners have the key to access the garden, although only three to five are truly active members, according to Thierry. Right now, he is not advertising the garden very much, as fifteen gardeners in such a small place is already quite a lot. However, everyone is always welcome to help, or just visit the garden, in accordance with the “Main Verte” manifesto.

As we speak, some neighbors come out of their houses and pass by. Thierry greets them all, and reminds them of the kiwi gathering session planned for the following day. The coincidence of the onion soup and the upcycling event in Saint-Ouen prevented me for joining them. However, I asked some news to Thierry by e-mail. They collected 20 kg of kiwis, which proved to have poor taste. “The birds did not ate them, this is not a good sign”, Thierry writes. I am ready to bet that the gladness of sharing an afternoon together and getting to know better the neighboors offsetted the bad taste of the kiwis.