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In the Loire valley, the not-for-profit association Cildéa operates the Jardin d’Astrée, an organic kitchen garden offering professional horticultural training to help long-term job-seekers develop new confidence and autonomy.
Not-for-profit association Cildéa created the Jardin d’Astrée in 2002, as part of France’s national network Les Jardins de Cocagne (‘Gardens of Plenty’). The project provides professional training in a working, organic kitchen garden. Twenty participants from the Centre Loire region – all in situations of insecurity – attend a one-year work scheme, learning organic horticultural techniques and receiving individualised support.
The programme’s team offers participants the opportunity to gain genuine professional experience and prepare more effectively for the world of work: horticulture’s rigorous schedules and time-sensitivity are especially constructive in this context. Participants must engage in professional training or demonstrate an active involvement in the work of the staff representative body. Interpersonal relationships and social skills are further highlighted in cookery workshops and dealings with the public at large.
Each year, the Jardin d’Astrée welcomes over 1,000 visitors (including school groups), introducing them to organic gardening and other eco-friendly practices. Cildéa trainees are responsible for public presentations on aspects of organic horticulture (from green fertilisers to the use of animal traction, and organic pest repellents) and the importance of buying locally or responsibly produced food. Sustainable horticulture involves strenuous work, but the scheme’s participants derive great satisfaction from the produce harvested, fuelling their progress to enhanced self-confidence and autonomy.
The programme is supported by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès as part of its H³ programme (Head – Heart – Hand).