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Why two horses plowed in the center of Roubaix?

Noré and Etoile have plowed part of the land of the former Nollet factory in Roubaix, right in the city center! (©ASH/Northern Cross)

Two horses plowing a field, which is rare these days. And in addition in the city center of Roubaix, it’s downright crazy! This is what we saw the last week of April 2022 on a plot of the former Nollet factory, Trichon district, opposite the La Baraka restaurant. Noré and Etoile horsesguided by Marie Peltier, from Bourbourg, participated in the preparation of the future urban farm of Trichon. We explain everything to you with Pierre Wolf, urban farmers from Trichon.

“It’s good kids…”

Draft horses pulling an iron machine that plows the earth, guided by reins held by a person on foot: we are not in the 19th century, nor in the countryside. This happened in Roubaix, in the city center this week. But what is happening in the Trichon district?

Holding the reins, Marie Peltier, who had come specially from Bourbourg with her hardworking “colleagues”, Noré and Etoile. “Together, the line”; “It’s good kids”; “No chicanery”; “Oh oh”… The horses are docile, just taking the liberty of grazing some tall grass.

You have to stop from time to time because the site still contains obstacles, such as iron bars or very large stones. It is even necessary to repair the extirpator, name of the machine attached to the horses.

Draft horses plowed on the Nollet industrial wasteland in Roubaix.
Draft horses plowed on the Nollet industrial wasteland in Roubaix. (©ASH/Northern Cross)

The young woman knows all about it, plowing with horses, it’s her job! And yes, it still exists. “In Flanders, farmers call me to come to their fields. In town, it’s rare. in the region, there is Grande-Synthe who also called me…” she explains.

She came, with Noré and Etoile, to plow for 4 days. The inhabitants were invited to discover the event, as well as 11 classes from neighboring schools, not forgetting the children of the Nautilus social center.

It might seem anecdotal, but it was not a demonstration of old trades. This plowing on horseback invites us to look to the future.

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Because the goal is to create a real urban farm on this 6300 m2 site!

What is this site?

The Nollet-Crouy factory, specializing in electrical equipment, was demolished in 2009, as part of the ANRU (urban rehabilitation plan). Housing construction was planned, but ultimately the site remained a wasteland. Roma have set up camp there. The land is partly polluted, especially because of the cable and car fires generated by the Roma presence.
Today, the site, owned by the MEL, wants to become a school of urban agriculture, with the urban farmers of Trichon, linked to the Baraka restaurant next to the site.

Pierre Wolf, from urban farmers in Trichon, explains: “For the most difficult part, we used modern machinery, because lifting the earth from an industrial wasteland that has never been cultivated 50 cm deep is too hard for the horses. But we want to use ‘oil’ only when necessary”.

Raising awareness among residents, analyzing with academics

Bringing in horses was a way of “educating the inhabitants, so that they take ownership of this project. Horses generate joy, and their needs are very good fertilizer! explains Pierre Wolf.

This is not the only action on the site, because part of the land is polluted: “We have a partnership with 3 universities: Junia, Lille and Côte d’Opale. Together with the MEL, owner of the land, we are writing a project on the management of polluted soil in the city centre”.

Two types of soil exist in the field: a depolluted soil whose nutrients must be reconstituted, and a soil whose pollution is voluntarily kept to analyze how it evolves.

The urban farm operational in 3 years

This project was a dream a few years ago. But the dream becomes reality! The first plantations will be made this year, on one of the plots of land, for a test. The goal is for the farm to be fully operational in 3 years.

It will work with members, who will pay a monthly subscription. They will be part of the project and not just consumers, because they will pick and harvest the fruits and vegetables themselves.

“We are thinking of a contribution of around €1.50 per day, or €45 per month. It is necessary that at least 170 people subscribe so that it is viable to pay one or even 2 people on the spot. For low-income people, we hope that some kind of ‘voucher’ will be distributed by the CCAS, for example, to help precarious families to participate in the project…”

Remember that already on the site, there is the shared garden of Trichon, on the plot just opposite the restaurant-cooperative Baraka.

The abandoned LEA Lille3 university building could accommodate a third place on the ground floor dedicated to food.
The abandoned LEA Lille3 university building could accommodate a third place on the ground floor dedicated to food. (©ASH/Northern Cross)

And the LEA building?

The site is right next to a huge abandoned building, the former Lille3 university building dedicated to Applied Foreign Languages.

Part of the place should be affected by the urban farm project. “The building belongs to Partenord. We are in contact with them to plan to create a third place on the ground floor around food. The El Cagette cooperative would be interested in setting up there, in particular…” remarks Pierre Wolf.

It will take a few more years to see this project emerge, but we can’t wait!

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