Market gardeners, they live in mobile homes and risk eviction

Psychologically, it is very hard. We are exhausted. » Adrien and Marine will they have to say goodbye to their mobile homes, installed in their agricultural shed ? This is what worries the two market gardeners. This summer, the mayor of Maché, in the Vendée, gave them formal notice under penalty to leave the premises. Since November 8, the couple must pay 50 euros per day of on-call duty. They resist, not without difficulty.

Their story began in 2018, when Adrien and Marine settled in this town to launch an organic market gardening activity, with direct sale at the farm. Everything seemed to start under the best auspices. They had met the mayor at the time to inform him of their desire to live in two mobile homes, in their agricultural shed, located on land in a classified A (agricultural) zone. That hadn’t been a problem. The couple devoted the first time of their installation to the development of the farm, thinking of taking steps later to change the destination of their agricultural building into a dwelling.

But, in April 2021, change of atmosphere. During an informal meeting, followed by a visit to their land, the new mayor of their commune, Frédéric Rager, informed them that they had no not allowed to live in their two mobile homes. A few months later, the elected official returned to draw up a report. Then, this summer, he put them on notice under penalty to leave the premises.

The market gardening activity requires being on site »

The market gardeners claim that the elected official has not offered them any solution to regularize their situation. The community of communes would even have dissuaded them from filing a prior declaration of work (DP), arguing that they were the subject of a report. We were taken for a ride »regrets Adrien today.

There are indeed provisions in the law that would allow them to live as they see fit. The local intermunicipal urban planning and housing plan (RAIN) which covers the municipality of Maché stipulates that are mainly authorized in zone A, limited extensions of existing residential constructions, annexes (to dwellings), installations, fittings and works, necessary for agricultural exploitation ». A priori, a company accommodation could fall into this category. In addition, the Alur law (2014) regulates the creation of Stecal (sectors of limited size and capacity) allowing light and removable housing to be authorized in areas classified as N or A (natural or agricultural).

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For Adrien and Marine, the weather conditions require them to be there every day. © DR

For the couple, parents of two young children, living in their settlement is the only viable option. We can’t live anywhere else. There are no accommodations available in Maché. I have a very small income, 500 euros per month to break everything, and I work long hours. The market gardening activity, particularly given the vagaries of the weather, requires being on site. It wouldn’t make sense to live 25 minutes away by car »says Adrian.

The opinion of the mayor, Frédéric Rager, is quite different. It is not possible to install a habitat in a livestock building. You can’t say they were tricked. They [Adrien et Marine] had been fully aware of the situation for four years. I offered to help them find accommodation, or another site for their mobile homes, which they refused. », he says. A proposal denied by the couple.

Legal vagueness

Their situation has sparked a vast outpouring of solidarity, locally, but also far beyond. The petition which they launched to contest their expulsion recorded at the beginning of December more than 100,000 signatures. Many people wrote to the town hall of Maché. We have received a lot of advice, particularly on the legal level »says Adrian.

It is also thanks to precious help from their online supporters that they were able to relaunch the constitution of their file, and finally file a preliminary declaration of work, on November 10. A request rejected at the beginning of December by the municipality considering that the market gardening activity does not justify a permanent presence » who deserves to grant an exemption from the rule of inconstructability in zone A.

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Their petition has already collected more than 100,000 signatures. © DR

The young market gardeners have also started legal proceedings with a lawyer. They requested the suspension of their formal notice with penalty, but it was rejected. They also asked for it to be overturned, but the court decision should not be known for two or three years.

This story illustrates the difficulties of people living in light habitats, too often subject to the goodwill of local elected officials, because of the legal uncertainty surrounding these facilities. A regrettable situation when in France, 4 million people are not or poorly housed, according to the Abbé Pierre Foundation. It also illustrates the difficulties of farmers, whose installation is far too often an obstacle course. Here again, a regrettable situation, while 101,000 farms disappeared between 2010 and 2020, according to the agricultural census.

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Market gardeners, they live in mobile homes and risk eviction

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