One of my first memories was stacking hay with my grandparents and their old tractor.
My grandparents and cousins were farmers, my father was a vet. Our family has always been about animals and crops.
In the past 16 years working at WWF European Policy office, I’ve seen many environmental laws change, but always frustratingly slowly. This made me more and more motivated to act on a personal level.
As Gandhi said: “be the change you want to see in the world”.
I met Lucie, Camille and Eva a few years ago at “Ciney en Transition”, a citizens’ initiative that wants to make local communities less dependent on oil.
We were four young mums with our hands full, but we still had big dreams of changing the world!
Ciney en Transition was all about promoting local economy, knowledge sharing and conviviality.
Camille is a cheese maker, and she was selling her products at markets outside Ciney. We would have loved to have such a market in our town, like the kind you find in small towns in the south of France.
But in Ciney there was no such thing. Like in many other cities, small shops left the town centre and big retailers took over on the outskirts of the city, with huge car parks.
We started thinking what we could do. We all loved food and enjoying ourselves and so the idea of a seasonal farmers’ market came to life.
All the producers would need to be local and diverse, and if possible, organic too. We started looking around and you’d be amazed how many cheese makers we found!
We decided to hold our market next to the train station and make it into a party. Our friends played music and each month we invited different micro breweries.
The local authorities supported the idea, but we got no financial help.
We relied on volunteering, so we mobilised our partners and husbands. It took us two years just to prepare the whole thing.
And you know what? The first edition was a massive success.
It didn’t stop there either — the producers came back for more.
This year for the second season, we’ve had twice as many producers and not a single drop of rain. People came, did their shopping and stayed for a beer.
It was now a fixture on the Cinaciens’ calendars.
And now? Everyone wants more, so next year we’ll start early — in March instead of May. We’re even talking about opening a cooperative shop.
Ciney en Transition, that brought us together, sadly no longer exists.
But like a flower that sprang up, it inspired collective gardens, a repair-café and even a local currency called Voltî. You can pay with it on our market and 80 other partners from doctors to yoga classes.
We did it! And we did it in true “transition style”, because food matters and we all care about it.
We’re boosting the local economy and bringing the community together.
The best part? We’re having so much fun.
Oh, and that’s not all — I have agreed to run for next year’s communal elections. Yes, food — and a little bit of fun — really can take you anywhere.
Lise Devaux, Green Economy and Natural Resources Assistant at WWF EPO.
Follow Lise: @LiseDevaux