Founded in 1994 in Ile Saint-Denis, the Halage association has been working for almost 30 years on social reintegration and environmental protection. Born from a desire not only to address the unemployment rate in the area, but the catastrophic state of the banks of the Seine, the structure now supports around a hundred people a year through integration projects that reconcile man and nature. But recently, the association has witnessed a new area of engagement blossom... Nicolas Fescourt, Fleurs d'Halage project manager, tells us more!
Working with plants is good for you.
For some time, we had been trying to find a way to develop an urban agricultural activity to make use of the knowledge and skills of our people. This is largely thanks to Rustam, an Armenian horticulturist that was part of our reintegration programme, who managed to grow tomato plants from concrete at Porte de la Chapelle. His experience and enthusiasm were instrumental in getting us started with the first greenhouse. At the same time, we also took a closer look at the flower market and thought that there was something that could be done: 85% of the flowers we buy are imported. If, at our level, we could manage to develop short circuit production of local flowers, everyone would win! We are well on our way: today we run three flower farms and produce 80 varieties that yield 250,000 stems per year. They are picked in the morning and sold directly by us or by local florists within a maximum radius of 15 km. Some of them even decorate the lounges of certain luxury hotels in Paris!
We support people whose lives have been disrupted, who have been out of work for some time and who are often socially excluded. We support them with fixed-term integration contracts that can last up to two years. They are put into production and sales situations, which allows them to gain experience; are trained in urban horticulture in our approved training centre; and are supported in their job search. 100% found a job when they left us. Flowers provide a mode of social reintegration unlike any other. Working with plants does good, it reconnects, it repairs, often it brings us back to our roots. It is a comforting, rewarding aim, full of positive values. The transformation is often striking, especially in terms of self-confidence: some people arrive barely visible under their hoods or hidden behind their shyness and within a few weeks you find them leading a team-building workshop or guiding a farm tour!
We are going to open a new flower farm of several hectares, which will create about fifteen reintegration positions. We need to increase production to meet demand. Local and seasonal flowers are popular! We are also aiming for a broader scope to integrate our production into a virtuous circle. We would like to open an Ile-de-France flower exchange to boost the French flower industry and relocalise the market. We really want to participate in the construction and development of this industry to make it more sustainable, inclusive and supportive, and to spread our model of the social reintegration through flower farming to project leaders throughout France. We are already working to renew the industry by training the horticulturists of tomorrow. It is our way of helping the city think differently, enhance the value of the territory and its inhabitants and reconcile the urban with the natural.
A wish rather than a piece of advice: that there be real awareness in this area, as much as there has been in others. Today, we think about where the meat we eat or the clothes we buy come from. We have witnessed a real consumer movement that has affected the entire industry. Little is known about the flower production circuit and all its consequences. When you buy a bouquet, you don't ask yourself where the flowers come from. I would like people to ask more questions, to demand local, seasonal flowers that are produced with respect for the environment and people.
"When you buy a bouquet, you don't ask yourself where the flowers come from. I would like people to ask more questions."
It might grow on its own out of practically nothing in our gardens, but it is a champion soother for fragile skin with incredible calming power
Let’s do it
In the garden or on a windowsill, today your children will meet a family of shelled creatures, which will introduce them to everything that grows!