The gardens of La Loupiote were created in 2015 in Livron (64, Pyrénées-Atlantiques), a town near Pau, at the foot of the Pyrénées mountains. After a few years working in the computer industry, Thibaud decided to become a market gardener and set up his own business. The initial idea was to launch several independent agricultural activities on the same site: market gardening, seedlings and aromatic plants.
The creation of a cooperative and participatory society is necessary to carry out such a project and requires a heavy administrative burden. The project is still in the implementation phase even though the various workshops already exist on the farm, of which Thibaud is the sole manager today.
When he arrived with his partner Séverine, everything was fallow: a few small crops were planted in the first year to start restoring the soil; then Thibaud became a solidarity contributor in 2016 and farm manager since 2017.
The area cultivated at La Loupiote in 2020, covers 4000 m2 of outdoor gardens and 800 m2 under greenhouses. Thibaud has chosen to practise organic farming on living soil, i.e. without any tillage, with only organic matter (OM) of different types (wood, animal dejecta, compost) and at different stages of decomposition. Thibaud uses local actors within a 30 km perimeter to obtain organic matter supplies. He then offers healthy and tasty vegetables without any inputs, grown with the greatest respect for the environment they occupy. 40% of the produce is sold directly at La Loupiote, 30% at the Emmaus Pau-Lescar market and 30% is sold in stores (Biocoop, grocery stores, etc.).
• 4000 m2 of outdoor gardens, 800 m2 under greenhouses
• Supply MO within 40km
• 40% direct sales, 30% at the Emmaus Pau-Lescar market, 30% stores
• Objective: to increase the MO content from 2% to 4%.
La Loupiote uses local actors to obtain organic matter. A system for pooling and recovering materials from several sources has been created: wood from a pruning company is recovered to be crushed, and farmers have grouped together to centralize their manure (hen droppings and ewe droppings). The compost comes from a municipal composting platform less than 10 km away. The objective is to reconstitute the natural cycle of the soil so that it can regenerate itself. The external inputs of OM can then be stopped once the autonomy in fertility has been acquired.
La Loupiote encourages responsible consumption by offering healthy, quality vegetables grown using an environmentally friendly cultivation method that enriches itself a little more each year.
To listen to the members of La Loupiote present the project, you can watch the video at the very bottom of the article !
During the design phase of the project, the construction of the facilities was conceived according to the “cradle to cradle” model. That is to say that all the buildings are demountable and the majority of the materials are recycled/recyclable/remodulable (recycled concrete formwork pallets for the floor, remodulable polyethylene greenhouse glass, offices made from old boat containers…) in order to control the entire life cycle of the materials, “from cradle to cradle”.
As La Loupiote’s soils have been very impoverished by successive maize crops with a lot of tillage, green manures are not yet sufficient and the soil still requires an external OM input. Thibaud’s objective is to increase the OM content of its soils from 2% to 4%.
Market gardening on living soil is a very technical method of cultivation that does not rely solely on the supply of external organic matter: the preparation of crop beds is certainly essential, (with a soil amendment reasoned over a period of 10 years), but so is the stimulation of life in the soil. Indeed, soil is a very complex structure that contains 47% of the global biomass  on Earth. Soil life is due to a set of complex mechanisms in which each organism is important.
Tilling the soil means destroying its structure and thus killing these organisms or preventing their action; it is therefore a model of non-tillage that Thibaud proposes to respect, develop and enrich this soil life.
The macro and micro organisms in the soil allow the transformation of matter into plant nutrients. There are many different actors (arthropods, earthworms, nematodes, bacteria, fungi, mites, protozoa …) in the transformation of OM, which intervene at different stages: from decomposition to mineralization.
However, the plants that take root in this soil are also very important: the interactions between the roots and the pedological environment activate the decomposition of OM. This zone of interactions, called the rhizosphere, can be defined as a zone of mutual aid and interspecific cooperation: the plant takes water and mineral elements from the environment but also releases carbon and nitrogenous organic compounds for other soil organisms. We have a phenomenon of rhizodeposition that will allow the formation of soils and thus, in our case, promote their regeneration through increased soil life.
Source:  Yinon M. Bar-On, Rob Phillips, and Ron Milo, June 19, 2018. The biomass distribution on Earth, PNAS
In summary, the preparation of crop beds with OM inputs is as important as the continuous presence of plants on these beds to activate OM decomposition and thus promote soil enrichment while facilitating the supply of plant nutrients. The supply of external OM is done through local actors located within a perimeter of about 30 km around La Loupiote: the composting platform for municipal green waste is located less than 10 km away, pruners store the wood from their activity which is then shredded, and farmers have organized to pool their chicken and sheep manure. This makes it possible to recycle the waste from these other productions.
La Loupiote’s products are sold locally: directly to customers via direct sales at the farm or at the Emmaus Pau-Lescar market, or to local organic grocery stores.
MSV is an organic farming technique which, in addition to not polluting the environment by adding chemical inputs (pesticides, fungicides, chemical fertilisers, etc.), contributes more broadly to soil regeneration by reboosting the life of the soil in order to restore its natural cycle. This restores the life and structure of the soil, which guarantees long-term production potential and limits erosion. At La Loupiote spaces are also developed and/or left in the “wild” state to promote biodiversity.
OM is the only input purchased, eventually the cost of OM will be eliminated as the soil will regenerate itself and no longer require it. Thibaud also wants to start producing his own seeds, which will reduce the amount of seed purchased.
Customers benefit from healthy, quality, locally produced food. Although the project is still in its early stages, Thibaud wishes to integrate a social dimension in the future with a workshop for people in vocational rehabilitation. In his approach, he has chosen to build a network with local economic actors and to work with the inhabitants of the commune: a collective henhouse has been set up (its launch was delayed by the Covid crisis19 ) and by 2021 he plans to start collective farming with some of the inhabitants of Livron. The idea is to gain local autonomy and strengthen the links between inhabitants.
The cultivation method proposed by La Loupiote is perfectly reproducible: MWV is a biological practice, respectful and enriching for the environment, relatively easy to implement in the sense that it does not require a lot of material, only MO. However, a lot of knowledge is needed to understand the complexity of this soil-plant system (to simplify) and to implement it effectively, training is imperative before starting. It is also important to have easy access to organic matter nearby.
Comprehensive training courses are easily accessible online (on the YouTube channel Verre de Terre Production) and are therefore available even for novices who simply wish to learn more or to train for professional purposes. This mode of production presents itself as a solution for the future of agriculture, with intensive quality food production that prevents erosion, enriches the life of the soil and integrates local stakeholders.
In the future, Thibaud wants to stabilize the plant workshop and turn it into a nursery. Séverine will be in charge of this workshop as well as the social reception and an associated potential on the SCOP envisages a development axis for reception of the general public on an educational farm adjoining La Loupiote. Thibaud also wishes to slow down its activity on the market gardening workshop and delegate it to an employee to concentrate on other projects, including the creation of the SCOP. The collective henhouse that has already been built will be launched as soon as possible in 2021 at the earliest and collective farming with the inhabitants will be set up on the site soon.
Copyright CirculAgronomie 2020