The Green Belt - La Ceinture Verte
Déniché pour vous 121 file
Réseau des collectivités Territoriales pour une Economie Solidaire (RTES)
The « Déniché pour Vous » files have been developed by the RTES. They present local initiatives in France, their environment, their purpose and their development, with particular emphasis on the role of local authorities. Whether the initiatives focus on the energy transition, shared spaces, the circular economy, food, sustainable mobility, immigration or digital technology, these case studies offer an instructive immersion in the field of territorial social innovation.
The Green Belt provides equipped market garden farms and technical support for production and sales in return for a monthly membership fee. The market gardeners remain independent while participating in the shareholding and governance of the local SCIC (Sociétés Coopératives d’Intérêt Collectif). La Ceinture Verte, a cooperative of collective interest (SCIC), brings together all the institutional players, agricultural development structures and citizens involved in an area to set up organic market garden crops and guarantee farmers a better income.
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Origin and presentation of the initiative
La Ceinture Verte aims to set up new producers of diversified organic market gardening on 2-hectare farms. As a cooperative society of collective interest (SCIC), it brings together all local players wishing to invest in the development of the local, fair-trade vegetable sector and the installation of new farmers in the area. The first Green Belt SCIC was set up in Pau in 2020, and there are now Green Belt SCICs in several regions (Drôme, Terroir de Limoges, Le Havre Seine, Clermont-Auvergne).
The creation of the SCIC la Ceinture Verte was prompted by a strong political desire on the part of François Bayrou, the Mayor of Pau, to work on the installation of market gardeners, with the aim of freeing up 50 hectares of farmland and working on the issue of transferring the business, bearing in mind that 75% of farmers were due to retire in the next few years and that the local catering industry requires 160 tonnes of vegetables every year. In 2020, Patrick Buron, Vice-Chairman of the Pau Béarn Pyrénées Urban Community with responsibility for agriculture and food, and Pierre Pezziardi, an entrepreneur, joined forces to create the SCIC la Ceinture Verte du Pays du Béarn to meet these challenges.
The SCIC brings together local players who are keen to help short food circuits reach a new level: local authorities, the 64 Chamber of Agriculture, the Montardon agricultural college, the Béarn association for the development of agricultural employment (ABDEA), Civam Béarn, S.A.S Graines, the Terra Alter cooperative, volunteers, solidarity investors, etc.
Faced with the difficulties farmers face in setting up (access to land, under-financing and isolation), the Green Belt is making available to farmers :
land suitable for market gardening (2 ha), agronomic qualities and water resources,
high-performance equipment (tunnels, irrigation system, building),
high-quality technical and economic support (from a technical adviser and an experienced market gardener).
The Green Belt provides equipped farms and individualised and collective technical support for production in the first few years of setting up, in return for a progressive monthly contribution over the first few years. The market gardeners are independent and associate members of the SCIC La Ceinture Verte and participate in its governance. La Ceinture Verte’s main target group is people who want to set up their own business outside the family and people who are changing careers (30% to 50% of those applying to set up in agriculture). Partnerships with training centres and start-up centres (chambers of agriculture, agricultural incubators, RENETA, FADEAR, etc.) provide a pool of market garden applicants from the region and beyond.
Market gardeners set up as tenants under a career lease, which can be terminated every year if they wish. They make a commitment by paying a monthly contribution to the cooperative. This contribution is progressive, from €300 excluding VAT in the first year to €750 excluding VAT from the fourth year onwards. Each membership fee entitles the farmer to €150 in shares, enabling him to build up savings over the course of his career.
La Ceinture Verte SAS invoices the SCIC for services (implementation engineering, support for market gardeners, recruitment of market gardeners, administrative management) and deducts 10% of the total membership fee to finance its efforts to improve the productivity of market garden farms. Balancing the economic model, which must take account of loan repayments, support, defaults, holidays, turnover and maintenance costs, requires a contribution of around €710 per month per market gardener, based on the current scope of the service. The choice of a progressive contribution according to the seniority and economic results of the market gardeners offers a solution for spreading this amount more evenly. Investments in farms (€200,000 on average) are financed by bank loans and subsidies (Region, Water Agency, France Recovery Plan, France 2030). Today, the Green Belt is a cooperative group: SAS Ceinture Verte Groupe runs a network of independent SCICs in several regions (Pays du Béarn, Drôme, Terroir de Limoges, Le Havre Seine, Clermont-Auvergne) and provides them with pooled services: communication, recruitment, land identification, implementation engineering, structuring of financing, governance, selection of market gardeners, technical and economic support, and administrative follow-up. Its corporate aim: to set up farmers and maximise their income through short distribution channels, so as to feed the region with quality produce over the long term.
The role of local authorities
The partnerships forged with local authorities and industry players facilitate access to both public and private land. In November 2019, the Pau Béarn Pyrénées conurbation council, which initiated the project, voted to contribute €100,000 to the SCIC Ceinture Verte Pays de Béarn. Since 20 July 2021, the Communauté de Communes du Haut Béarn has subscribed to the capital of the Ceinture Verte Pays de Béarn with the desire to be able to develop farms and therefore welcome new market gardeners. The Green Belt has therefore extended its area of action in order to respond to requests from partners.