Maison cocagne

Eiffage Foundation: Maison Cocagne, a centre for ecological and social transition at Saclay

Eiffage Group

On 26 September 2019, representatives of the French government, local authorities, major companies and community networks attended the inauguration of the Maison Cocagne in Saclay, a world-renowned scientific and technology hub. The Eiffage Foundation, which has been supporting the Cocagne network and several Cocagne market gardens in various regions since 2015, also took part in the event. The Maison Cocagne, a community centre and the central focal point for over a hundred work-integration organic market gardens in France, is socially engaged and leverages the French expertise available at this hub, to focus on the role of people in difficulty in France’s ecological and social transition.

The Maison Cocagne, which is part of the national network of the same name promoting integration through economic activity, is a classified heritage site. Renovation works that began in 2009 were completed in September 2019.  Formerly a farm at the Abbaye du Limon in Vauhallan, the site resumed its agricultural function in 2012 with the creation of the Limon work-integration organic market garden. Now it is also where the head office of the national network, which groups together 110 market gardens and 5,000 people in difficulty on back-to-work schemes per year, aims to raise awareness of innovations in the field of solidarity being rolled out across the country.

The project, which tackles real social issues, was created thanks contributions from public and private partners.  Its inauguration is also part of an unprecedented government initiative with the Ambition Inclusion plan announced by the French President on 10 September 2019. 
The project is also part of the regional expertise challenges of the Saclay hub, which also has pockets of extreme poverty. It creates a link between the city and the countryside.

More about the Cocagne market gardens...

The Cocagne market gardens promote the return to work for women and men in difficulty and enable them to build their professional and personal (re)development plan, through the production of organic fruit and vegetables that are sold via a short circuit distribution system based on weekly boxes delivered to a network of members. Redeveloping a connection with the land offers therapeutic benefits that help the people involved, damaged by life and lacking confidence, to re-establish themselves. 

All the Cocagne market gardens share and defend common values: 

  • refusing exclusion and all types of discrimination,
  • as part of integration initiatives that respect the principle of sustainable development: social harmony, solidarity-based economy and respect for the environment.
By signing up to a Cocagne market garden, consumers contribute to a human and solidarity initiative, and also act in favour of healthy food production.  Their membership gives hope to women and men whose work brings meaning to consumerism.

Organic market gardens can be a tool for socio-professional integration and a pathway to sustainable employment, and the Cocagne market gardens are proving this day after day!

The Limon Cocagne market garden is a 6.5 hectare farm irrigated by work integration initiatives. It supports 30 people on a daily basis on back-to-work schemes. Every week, it delivers organic, local and solidarity produce, in the form of fruit and vegetable boxes that preserve taste and nutritional quality.  The content of the boxes changes regularly and members get to test around fifty different varieties of vegetables throughout the year.

More about the Cocagne network…

The Cocagne network brings together 110 structures that promote integration through environmental economic activity (organic market gardening, management of green spaces, organic food chains, etc.) and 13 project organisers. Each structure is independent and autonomous. To join the Cocagne network, they have to sign up to and comply with the Cocagne charter. These structures are based around a Cocagne market garden, sometimes with the addition of other activities (management of green spaces, environmental education, logistics platform, food produce preparation, etc.). The Cocagne network was set up in 1999, 8 years after the first Cocagne market garden was created. Its objective is to pool resources, support the professional structuring of the market gardens, and represent them. The Cocagne network currently has around twenty employees, and its head office opened at the Maison Cocagne in September 2019.