3. Case study: L’Atelier Paysan


L’Atelier Paysan (AP) is a cooperative comprised of farmers, engineers, and farming associations in France. The coop, which is non-profit, helps small scale and organic farmers create and maintain agricultural equipment that is suitable for alternative forms of agriculture. To do so, AP employs a group of engineers, designers and facilitators to work with the farmers.

Small-scale farmers in France need agricultural machines to support their work but big companies rarely produce machines specific to their needs. When they do, maintenance costs are high and farmers have to adjust their farming techniques to the logic of the machines.

This is the reason why L’Atelier Paysan decided to design the agricultural machines themselves. The cooperative produces machines to accommodate their needs and not to sell them for a price on the market and they share their designs with the world – as a global digital commons.

It emerged in 2009 as a subgroup within an association for the development and promotion of organic agriculture called ADAbio in Rhone-Alpes (a region in the south east of France) and later evolved into a cooperative.  It all began when the founders of this project Joseph, an experienced organic farmer and a member of ADAbio, and Fabrice, a very politically aware carpenter, standardised, documented and disseminated three essential pieces of machinery that had been developed by Joseph along with other farmers and were utilised in permanent beds (one of the basic methods for soil management in organic agriculture). This was well received by farmers in France so their activity expanded.

The tools made by AP are, almost, entirely made of metal.  The collective conducts workshops for farmers to learn how to work metal (basically cut, drill and weld) and at the same time attempt to assemble some of the tools. Further, they develop more tools along with the farmers that are not limited to organic agriculture but include all types of small scale farming. For instance they work with wine and fruit producers, cattle farmers and farmers utilising horse power. All design files are openly available in the AP platform and the team working for the coop is readily available to work with farmers towards addressing their needs.